I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost ten years—caring for my family at the sacrifice and expense of my career outside the home. God led me here, to mopping sticky floors midday and re-learning math after school, but he also led me to use my gifts of writing and speaking outside my home.
For weeks after hearing the snippet of John MacArthur’s comment that Beth Moore should “go home,” residual gender shame and self-doubt emerged from my inner wounds.
Somehow, I have made it into adulthood believing that my gifts and usefulness for the kingdom of God needed to be wielded through male gatekeepers. As if I can flourish for the kingdom only if male leaders stamp my actions with approval.
Stop telling me I can’t use my gifts.
Being a stay-at-home mom for almost a decade has taught me that my giftings to build up the body of Christ are to be yielded with humble submission to Christ, rather than other people’s opinions. For years people asked, “What do you do?” And I’d reply, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” And I’d hear something like, “Oh. That’s great that you don’t have to work.”
Don’t have to work? You mean serving others 24/7 and running the enterprise of a home is not work? Then what is it?
Putting aside my career dreams to serve God through obedience in my job as a mom and wife is a ministry I embrace—and it takes resources of creativity, ambition, and steadfastness. It has also shown me his strength in my weakness time and time again. Waking to hold a crying baby. Loneliness and depression. Questioning my significance when my life seems full of seemingly insignificant dishwashing and playdough-rolling. My gifting these years has often been used in the invisible service of creatively training my kids in the way they should go—or sometimes grumbling through a laundry pile. But it also has been used to proclaim the gospel to male and female people I meet along the way, through writing, and occasional speaking (I dare not say preaching).
It is the hard work of obeying God in this unrewarded work of the home that has prepared me to boldly follow him in the public sphere where some people think as a woman, I shouldn’t use my gifts. It is my obedience to Christ in the hard work of homemaking against the opinion of others that has prepared me for the hard work of Christ-proclaiming against the opinion of others.
I know John MacArthur’s statement was supported by the fact that he thinks “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. End of story . . . just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel . . . doesn’t mean you should be preaching.” And I am not writing this to argue the right for women to preach or not, but I do want to say that the first church did not have pulpits—it had living rooms. It did not have rows of parishioners sitting to hear the well-trained (or not well-trained) preacher. It did not have distance between pastor (an office that did not exist) and church-goer. What did it have? Men and women using their gifts to build one another up, having everything in common.
Furthermore, when Paul wrote the Book of Philippians, he sent it to the church that met in Lydia’s home. I doubt she only cleaned the home and made their version of tea cookies. Rather, as the host and a believer, she probably read Paul’s letter to her fellow believers and even shared her thoughts to the men and women there.
What theology are we following?
I once heard it said that if we have a theology (of gender or otherwise) that cannot be applied to all people in all places at all times, we need to question whether our theology is biblical or transcultural.
In the case of women, including myself, needing to “go home” as opposed to using whatever gifts we have for the glory of God and the building of the church—because our theology says women should never speak the truth publicly to men—is a theology that needs to be questioned.
If women missionaries are permitted to preach in other countries, but not in North America (such as the Southern Baptist denomination allows as demonstrated in their Lottie Moon Missionary Fund, a woman who occasionally preached to mixed audiences)—then this theology needs questioning.
Maybe the biblical approach should be more like Paul, who—when the disciples told him that others were proclaiming the gospel that were not a part of their special group—replied, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” And I dare not say women proclaiming the excellencies of Christ with anyone who will listen is false motives—rather it is the work of the ministry of reconciliation. In fact, the first recorded proclamation of the Messiah to the Samaritans (men included) was through a woman. In addition, the first people to proclaim the risen Christ to men were also women.
We all will give an account.
For me, the bottom line is I will stand before God on my own. I will not have John MacArthur next to me to offer as Exhibit A for why I failed to employ my gifts for the building up of the body of Christ in this generation.
I will have myself and my Lord. Period.
And I want to do the work he has given me to accomplish, just like Jesus finished the work the Father gave him to accomplish. I want to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For me right now, that means the gift and blessing of coloring with my toddler mid-morning on a Wednesday because God called me to the work of a stay-at-home mom—and it also means writing and speaking of his excellencies in whatever way he leads me.
So, I will stay out when the Lord leads me to stay out.
I will stay home when the Lord leads me to stay home.
I will speak out when the Lord leads me to speak out.
I will remain silent when the Lord leads me to remain silent.
Because my God is the one who has called me out by name—not to fear humans—nor to follow human rules of what my gifting as a woman can and cannot be.
As Jesus told Peter at the end of the Gospel of John, when Peter was comparing himself with John: “What does it matter to you? Follow me.”
Cover image by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen.