A few months ago a friend called me for advice. Phone calls for advice are nothing new, but the advice she sought seemed a bit strange to glean from me: "I can't get my baby to stop crying, what should I do?"
Let me introduce myself. Lore (pronounced Lor-ee), single, 32, graphic designer and writer, lives with three other singles in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas. No babies. No husband. I have no recollection of the last time I found myself babysitting. I don't know, how do you get your baby to stop crying?
I don't know much about babies, but I do know a little about God. We spent thirty minutes talking about my friend's relationship with the Lord, the ways in which she sees God, and the ways she feels He sees her. We spoke of Him as a Father and her as a child. We talked about the ways she's been instructed (by books and well-meaning friends) she needs to train her little one—to make him independent, self-sufficient, able to pacify himself, etc. We talked about how she would sit on her couch sobbing while she listened to her four-month old sob, how her heart ached to be near him, her hands ached to hold him, and her soul longed to sooth him. And, while his cries sounded in the background, I did what no single childless person should do, I gave parenting advice: go pick him up and hold him close, do exactly what God does with us when we are dependent, insufficient, and unable to be consoled.
Our Common Devotion
I have been guilty of thinking the only way a woman could meet God's expectation for her was to be a wife and a mother, and I thought the next highest calling was to teach other women these same expectations. But when I watched all of my friends marry and become mothers while I still remained single, I felt like an oak tree in the fall, losing all my leaves and opportunities one by one. If I couldn't be a wife or mother, I certainly couldn't disciple other women in being a wife or a mother—and how could I accomplish anything of worth otherwise?
In I Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul addresses the unmarried and married. To the unmarried woman he gives this generous task: to be concerned with the things of the Lord; and to the married he gives the beautiful task of devotion to her husband. And then he closes that section with this: I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
This means for the unmarried woman, she is unrestrained in her undivided devotion to the Lord, and for the married woman, she understands good order and the security of her devotion to the Lord. Neither call is higher, neither is better—both result in devotion to the Lord.
Our primary devotion is the Lord. Psalm 16 speaks of pleasant boundaries and this, I believe, is the pleasant boundary of womanhood (single or married). As single women we seek to reflect the gospel in ministry to others, and as married women we seek to reflect the gospel in ministry to our children and husbands. There are always ideas and principles and tactics and recommendations for how these are done best, but ultimately, the gospel going forward is our highest aim.
Knowing and Reflecting the Gospel
How do you serve your husband best? How do you parent best? How do you discipline best? How do you do singleness well? Know the gospel. Know the Word of God. Grasp core tenets of our faith (the Trinity, the character of God, the redemptive plan of salvation), because they ought to be the starting point of every conversation in which wisdom is sought or given.
Single women, serve others in joyful gratefulness for the gospel. Whether you ever see the culmination of what you wish, God's promise to His bride never fails.
Wives, submit to your husband as the Church submits to Christ, adorn the gospel in this pleasant way.
Young mothers, preach the gospel to your babies, parent them as you are parented by the Father.
Middle aged women and seasoned mothers, don't simply offer good advice to younger women, instead all your counsel should adorn the gospel. Study how this is a role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Older women, recognize the greatest need for discipleship in the Church today among women is not your good ideas or years of experience, but the beauty of a woman who has lived devoted to the depths of the gospel in her home and ministry—whether married or never married.
Above all, whatever your home or ministry looks like today, make Christ the centerpiece and cornerstone.