I’m a 26 year old woman – married, college graduate, musician, almost done with her masters. I often find myself in two worlds – the world of music and the world of theology and the Church. Being a percussionist, a scholar and a practical theologian often places me in male dominated cultures – for better or worse, I’m often the minority. In fact, I’ve come to embrace this minority. I revel in be the “lone wolf” (or whatever the female equivalent of wolf is) and take joy when I’m the smartest/most organized/most talented/most prepared person in the room.
Several months ago my husband I went to go see The Intern – a movie that promised charm, humor, and the appropriate Anne Hathaway-ness that I wanted a Saturday morning movie to contain. What I didn’t expect was to be slapped in the face with an apropos message about women in the workforce, intentional decisions, and communally supporting one another through those decisions. A quick synopsis – Jules (Hathaway) is a young entrepreneur who created her start-up company from her dining room table just 18 months previous and led that company to high-end success. Her husband decided to leave his own rising career in his accounting industry to be a stay at home dad so that Jules’ company could continue to thrive and expand under her leadership. Ben (Robert De Niro) comes in as a senior citizen intern – a crazy, culturally relevant idea from one of Jules’ employees. Throughout a smattering of well poised scenes in which Jules interacts with her husband, daughter, and other moms at her daughter’s school, it becomes apparent that Jules is not equally accepted in the “mom crowd” because she has a separate job during the day which keeps her from helicoptering around her child.
In a poignant scene, Ben has taken Jules’ daughter to the park for a birthday party where he begins dialoguing with some of the other moms. He praises Jules’ work and leadership and then turns the tables, asking the other moms “Aren’t you proud of her? She’s one of your people, right? You should be so proud of her.”
But this isn’t always the case. It’s easy to grow competitive when you’re trying to “do it all”. The American culture is set on being exemplary, one of a kind, and unique – so much so that when someone similar to us does something equally or more awesome than us, we cringe.
We get competitive. We stop encouraging and start comparing. We look down at those who may be stay at home moms and label them anti-feminist. We critique those who are single or childless or just passionate about their work and tag them as not caring for the next generation.
And I sit smack in the middle. I feel I face an either-or choice, pursuing academia and a career or pursuing motherhood and being able to make homemade guacamole for my child’s classroom fiesta party (watch the movie – I promise it’ll make sense). And I know we can’t “have it all”. Trust me, I’ve done plenty of research and writing on the negative side affects of working too much and not having breathing room in our lives. There are seasons of where one aspect of our lives takes incredible priority over everything else and that is incredibly necessary to recognize and have grace with ourselves and with one another in and through those seasons.
I guess, more than anything, I just want to know that if I do decide to do both – to pursue a career and have a family – that this would be okay. I want to be able to sit at the feet of Jesus, hear his calling on my life, and then have the courage and boldness to pursue that calling with relentless passion. But I also need to know that I have a community of supporters and cheerleaders who have my back, and not just because I’m a people-pleaser. No, we were called to be in community and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
An often quoted scripture verse in times of trial or suffering is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Yet what is frequently neglected is the following verse “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles”. How can we possibly begin to encourage one another on in good deeds and share in one another’s troubles when our instinct is to judge, condemn, and compete with each other? We should be, in the ways of the wise Ben, so proud of one another.
Wherever you are today, whether single and at lost for what’s to come, married with grown kids, a woman working diligently outside of the home or a brave mom working hard to raise her kids up in the Lord, may I offer this – you are awesome! Keep up the hard work! Keep going, one day at time, pursuing Jesus in all that you do! In the mundane, in the hard times, give yourself grace. You don’t have to make every classroom cupcake from scratch with kale and chia seed. If the laundry doesn’t get done tonight because you are going out on a date with your husband, that’s awesome. But, in perseverance, press on towards the call that God has given you. And let us, as a tribe of people, look for ways to actively love on those around us, to surrender the chains of competition and comparison, and to champion each woman who is doing great things – even if those great things look slightly different than the amazing work we get to do.
// Where are you at today? In your situation or circumstances, what does it mean to view those around you as people of community and encouragement as opposed to competition?