While women today are involved in every professional sphere, the conversation around women and the workplace is still a heated and much debated one. Though women continue to advance in their respective fields, many women still feel like work is something to justify. In Christian circles, it can be particularly hard for women to find support when it comes to work and career advancement because the traditional family model is so highly regarded. Women who sense a calling to the professional sector often struggle to pursue that calling without the support of the church or their peers. But it’s time for this notion to change. It’s time for women to express their biblical calling in all settings. Here is a new way for women and the church to think about work, based on the book ‘A Woman’s Place’ by Katelyn Beaty.
The Rethinking of Work As Good
In the book, Beaty talks about Alice Seeley Harris, the missionary “whom we remember not only as a woman doing apparently unwomanly things but chiefly as a woman serving Christ, adding streams of his love throughout human history.” She was involved in the missionary presence in the Congo in the nineteenth century. Her presence not only exposed the human rights abuses in the Congo, but also aided in bringing economic growth, literacy and education (especially for women) to those developing nations. The role of these missionaries also had an impact on the infant mortality rate and health care to developing nations, aiding in the process of creation flourishing. Like Harris, women are called to live in mission. God calls all of His children to build up all areas of His kingdom. In order for women to live on mission, we have to rethink how we think and talk about work. Despite the fact that more and more women are working and advancing in their respective fields, many Christian women are being discouraged from thinking of work as good in subtle and not subtle ways.
In her book, Beaty talks about a woman and educator she met named Julia. She explained to Beaty that she was a professional at her former church, “but there was no context in which people were talking about the effect it was having on their faith.” In turn, she turned to non-Christian peers to talk about work believing that context didn’t exist.
Some Christian communities are also talking about work in ways that are destructive and unbiblical. In her book, Beaty shares a disheartening example of this from a woman named Liz who serves on a legal team that advocates for children and teenagers in an out of court. While she explained that she doesn’t feel put down because she is a woman, this wasn’t always the case. When she was twenty-two and excitedly approached her pastor about her acceptance into law school, he told her she should “consider the fact that no Christian man would want to marry a lawyer.” This wound followed her later in adulthood, and caused her to fear that Christian men really wouldn’t accept her as a lawyer and a careered woman. Beaty explains that these are moments when some pastors and spiritual leaders have a chance to bless women in their call, but do the opposite by cursing them, even though they think they are helping them.
A Fruitful Christian Life Incorporates More Than a Marriage
When Beaty began the research for her book, she met many single women who centered their lives around work. Some experienced pain around not being married, some fully enjoyed single life, and some were open to marriage if the right person came along. The one thing she noticed the women were united in was a vision of a fruitful Christian life that incorporated more than marriage. What we can take from professional women who are Christian and single is that there is more than one way to live fruitful life as a Christian. In order for these women to bear such fruit, it is crucial that they have a spiritual framework as well as practical support. This will not encourage, but also equip them to be professionally fruitful.
Some Working Women Remain Outside of the Christian Fold
There are some subtle ways that working women are kept outside of the church fold. In her book, Beaty shares Jessica’s story. Jessica teaches college writing courses, while also being a founder of a nonprofit that teaches Burmese refugees to make sellable handcrafted items. She and her husband both have three children and are committed in both their parenting and ministry endeavors. For five months, every Sunday, another woman at church would ask Jessica “how do you manage it all?” No one ever asked her husband how he managed his time. Many assumed that Jessica was taking care of all the parenting, home and professional responsibilities while her husband was off doing “guy things.” While many women do shoulder a lot of responsibilities, many women that Beaty interviewed expressed they wouldn’t be able to be involved in professional work without her husband’s full and active support. Many Christian men are fulfilling their call to “love his wide as he loves himself” (Ephesians 5:33). Many Christian women are making work work for their families, their communities and themselves. Instead of professional women being viewed as neglectful of their children or lost in secular feminism and in turn being alienated, we should embrace them and view them as valuable assists to the Christian fold, who serve an important role in building up the kingdom of God.