I am more than my motherhood

It seems women are everywhere. Whether we are talking about women’s issues in politics, women’s roles in church, or what defines a woman according to Biblical standards, women as subject seem to comprise most of my twitter and blog feeds.

I am a woman and one would think that, as such, I would be encouraged by this push toward keeping women at the forefront of conversation. And, I suppose, to some extent I am. I understand and share some of the frustration expressed by many who seek a stronger, louder voice for our gender in the public square as it were. In our current culture there are certainly gender specific issues deserving discussion and evaluation and correction.

But not all I read is encouraging. In fact, I wonder sometimes if we do not do ourselves a great disservice by framing so much of our dialogue and critique in terms of our gender. I do believe that God created us uniquely as women and as such different from our male counterparts. Unsurprisingly, I hold a complementarian perspective. As I stated earlier, I believe that there are real issues facing churches and our culture at large and in many of those cases women play a critical role in asking and answering the hard questions. But, those sorts of situations aside, must everything about us be defined by our womanhood?

For example, in the current evangelical blog world, if we can delineate and define such a thing, there seems to me to be a plethora of articles and blog posts across major sites written to women mostly by young moms about being young moms. While I applaud the efforts on behalf of these mostly male dominated sites to include women and while I do agree that young moms are in a uniquely difficult stage of life, as an older mom I often want to say “I am more than my motherhood.” In other words, must our conversations about who we are as Christian women continually center around being a mom and a housewife? What about infertile women? Or single women? Or older women? Or empty nesters? We do these sisters a great disservice by implying, however subtly, however inadvertently, that motherhood is the pinnacle of Christian womanhood.

Years ago I read an article about women’s ministry. I don’t remember where I read it nor who wrote it. The author–whoever she was–in no uncertain terms asserted that all ministry to women must be couched in the Titus 2 directive. All ministry. All instruction. She contended that any lesson taught to women should have its (singular) application drawn from the imperative to “love husband, children and care for your home” as outlined in Titus 2:4-5. I remember this article so very clearly because it shocked and saddened me greatly.

In that author’s view the sum total of all that a woman needed to know about the Word, about God, about the gospel, about theology and about doctrine, has its only benefit in how it helps her to love her husband and children and care for her home. How she shortchanges us!

I think of my recent experience at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference where I heard theologically trained women exposit the Scriptures. No mention of housekeeping nor the narrow application to motherhood that I could recall but instead the encouragement, the mandate even, to women to study the Word, to know the Bible, to wrestle with the truths of who God is and who we are and to rejoice in His plan to redeem sinners for His own glory. Kathleen Nielson, Nancy Guthrie, Paige Benton Brown, Nancy Leigh Demoss–these smart, intelligent women used their gifts to propel their listeners toward a deeper knowledge, a richer theology, a greater sense of awe and worship.

It was women teaching women, to be sure, yet the truths taught transcended gender. Wendy Alsup makes my point far more succintly when she summarizes the Bible’s directive to women: Be Like Christ (click the link to read her post). In this respect, I am not only more than my motherhood, I am more than my gender. The call of God in my life has everything to do with me being a woman, yes, of course, but it also has nothing to do with me being a woman and everything to do with me being like Christ first and foremost, always and only.

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15 thoughts on “I am more than my motherhood

  1. Amen! Very true. I too am thankful for the encouragement on Desiring God and TGC websites for young moms (because I think we REALLY need it), but have felt similarly there should be more variety. I also feel as though the “fatherhood” topic doesn’t get discussed nearly as much on those same websites. Do young fathers not struggle as much to lead their family’s well? It wouldn’t seem that they struggle as much as young moms to have the same Christ (gospel-centered) focus if you are just judging by the blog topics…. :)

  2. I’m no Bible scholar, but I’ve always taken Titus 2 to mean that we should teach younger women to leave a life according to the Gospel, not necessarily limited to home keeping & parenting. I’ve always felt that verses 1, 7 -8 apply to everyone, even though they are Paul’s explicit instructions to Timothy. Certainly verses 9 – 13 apply to everyone.

    • As I said, I don’t remember where I read the article so I’m not sure of her hermeneutic. It is, perhaps, unfair of me to reference her stance with no supporting documentation but I do so as an example of how narrowly biblical womanhood is defined by some. But, yes, I agree with you; Paul’s overarching goal was for the gospel to be adorned!

  3. Well said, Lisa. I am often frustrated by the narrow emphasis on motherhood and marriage. There are many who don’t fit in either category who need encouragement to honor the Lord where He has called them. Also much of the applications that are drawn can only be carried out in the affluent, industrialized West whereas the gospel applies to all.

    I remember reading somewhere (I think it was Wendy Alsup’s blog) that Paul did not view his ministry through the lens of being male. Therefore, why should we? The gospel doesn’t eliminate gender but it’s above and beyond gender because the focus is Christ.

    • Ooooh, I love that statement about Paul. Above and beyond gender, yes and amen. Also, good point about our affluent, Western cultural applications. No doubt I’ve been guilty of the same, even here on the blog perhaps. ;)

      I too am frustrated by how narrowly we define womanhood and I hope that we will see more women, old and young, married and single, use their gifts to encourage others to be like Christ over and above who they are as women.

  4. I was thinking about this a bit few days ago in the middle of the discussion about the pros and cons of feminism. All of this am I a feminist or am I not a feminist discussion means we’re looking at everything through our gender. Seems narrow to me.

    • I agree, Kim. It seems we (womanhood in general) can be too quick to define everything in terms of gender, some of it right and good, some of it unnecessary and exaggerated.

  5. Well said Lisa. Even when I was a young mom it bugged me that more emphasis was being put on gender specific issues than the Bible puts on them.(it’s much worse nowadays though) Somewhere along the line women are skipping over the “neither male or female” part of Scripture.

    • I agree, Diane. There are certainly gender specific directives in the Word but I agree that it seems like so much of what is written to and for women connotes a more narrow focus. Titus 2 is important but it is not the sum of the Bible’s word for women. Or men. :)

  6. So glad (!) to read this today. This is my heart as well and while I know that my mothering et. al. is a significant expression of my person hood, it is not my essential being. It flows out of being transformed to the image of Christ. If we don’t get this paradigm right, it is very, very dangerous.

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