Back when my husband and I were still training to be missionaries, we were dealing with infertility and, at that time, I thought I might never be able to have kids. We had decided on the field of Papua New Guinea, where I knew I wouldn’t be able to adopt, and I was really wrestling with finding contentment and joy. At the same time, the more we learned during our training, the more my excitement grew for our eventual life’s work: going to those who have never heard.
One day, we had to take a test which would evaluate how successful we were likely to be in linguistics to help us decide if we should take the specialized course. I only missed one answer, so my husband and I decided that I would take the linguistics course after the regular training was finished. I began to develop a huge passion for Bible translation as well, which in some ways is related to linguistics, and joy began flowing back into my heart as I realized that perhaps there was a reason God wasn’t giving me children, perhaps He had this work of linguistics and translation for me to do which would be much more difficult with children. And with our great love for children, there would always be children in our home, and in focus in our ministry.
Just a couple months after deciding to take the course, we were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant! I couldn’t wait to be a mother, I had been dreaming of it my whole life, but I still hadn’t lost my passion to translate God’s Word. A woman named Jill Goring came to speak one evening and she so inspired me. She had completed a New Testament translation into a previously unwritten language while raising her son, who was only two years old when she started! This was something I’d never heard of a mother accomplishing, but it was exactly the desire of my heart. I rushed up to her afterwards and asked her how she did it.
She told me this: “The house wasn’t always clean, and we had really simple meals, but it was totally worth it.”
This lady was my new hero. I had been crumbling from the stress of not being able to “get it all done.” I was constantly feeling the pressure to be superwoman – keeping the house spotless, always a serving fantastic dinner with baked goods, while keeping up with my homework and ministries, putting together awesome Pinterest projects…all this while being pregnant with painful nerve entrapment in my chest. I felt like a disappointment of a woman every day and asked myself:
“What is wrong with me? Why can’t I keep it all together?”
I certainly couldn’t imagine being able to do the linguistics course with a baby, or translate the Bible with children, and still keep it all together. I had also begun resenting being a woman, because I didn’t really care about cleaning or baking or Pinterest, and I wondered if that was all that women were really valued for. I wondered if the men in missions really looked at me with respect, as a valuable part of the ministry (beyond cooking them food or keeping kids out of their hair). Maybe I should be more on top of cleaning and cooking and let the things I view as important be the things to fall to the wayside? After all, many missionary women that I knew of never learned the language, they were just there to “support their husbands.”
Now there is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to support my husband by being his teammate and helpmate in our calling – by doing translation, and ministering to women and children in a way my husband could not, all while bringing our children along to show them what life is all about – being Christ to those around us.
I really really wished I could do it all, but you know what? I realized that God does not expect me to be superwoman. I’m a normal woman (who is well below average at multi-tasking), with 24 hour days, and an awesome God who wants to work through normal, non-multitasking me. To get everything done so I can look like I have it all together? No, to love and reach others – starting with my husband and children, and branching out to all those He has called me to serve. I am a precious child of his, and I’m valuable because He loves me, and He values me for who He has made me in Christ. He has engifted me, even as a woman, with specific ways in which I am needed to minister to the Body of Christ. I am needed by my family, and I am also needed in the Body.
If that means simple meals and a messy house so that I can spend quality time with my children, God’s Word can go forward in this place, and His Body can be built up – then God is glorified, and He is not disappointed in me.
Some people think the ol’ saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is in the Bible. Breaking News: It’s not. I don’t want to conform to a cultural expectation, I want to conform to Jesus.
I write about this because this kind of insecurity and identity crisis has resurfaced since we moved to our host country. On the Missionary Bases, I was around women who were really into all those things that define womanhood in our culture, and I felt pressure to do the same kind of meals, make pies from scratch, and spend the same kind of time cleaning and crafting as the ladies did around me. I again felt like I didn’t make a very good woman.
On our team, the other two ladies are literally superwomen, who can do up to 37 things at one time and sweep 7 times a day (the number of completion), while still managing to get all their ministry, culture, and language study hours done. Seriously, Kelly and Shawna are amazing and have SKILLZ. I was worried and insecure that my husband might compare me to all these other ladies, and that I would come up terribly short. But as I shared with him my struggle with these thoughts, he said
“In 20 years, when we look back on our time of ministry here, we won’t be thinking about how the house looked.”
We will be thinking of how we supported each other through Christ’s love during the hardest and best of times. We will think of our children, growing up here, the precious time we had with them. We will be thinking about the lives that have been impacted as we took the time to learn this culture and language, love and minister to people with Christ’s love, and translate God’s Word so that they can read it in their own language. We will think of the brothers and sisters we will see in Heaven because God was willing to use us, normal us.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” 1 Corinthians 12:17-21
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6