Four Tips to Encourage Single Christian Women in Their Work

Four Tips to Encourage Single Christian Women in Their Work

I’d like to honor the single Christian woman who is working late tonight instead of being taken out to dinner. (But, please keep reading even if that’s not you. If you’ve ever been disappointed with God, I hope this encourages you, too.)

The longing for family

A 38-year-old, single Christian friend of mine told me recently that she got a promotion. The only problem, she said, is that she’d rather be a stay-at-home mom, “packing school lunches.”

This isn’t someone who’s simply dreaming about the greener grass on the other side of the hill. This is a gal who has sought to steward her talents for God’s glory. She earned a graduate degree and is in a job leveraging her strengths and bringing about great flourishing around her—both in and outside of work.

But the natural longing for family of many Christian women like my friend is real—it’s God-given. This is why stewarding your vocation as a single Christian woman can be confusing. As you apply yourself and advance in your career, it can feel like you’re getting further away from marriage and family. I’ve heard women say:

I’m afraid that if I pursue my work with vigor that it will signal to God that I’m less interested in marriage and family;

or,

I’m afraid that my Ph.D. scares men away.

As someone who was in this demographic for many years, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what I have learned along the way.

1. Choose to be fully alive.

Christian singles, and others who similarly wait on God’s timing for something, have a choice to make. We can either keep our hearts alive to the Lord, or turn away from him and kill our desire.

It’s comforting that scripture recognizes the often-hard reality of life this side of heaven—that there is longing and disappointment:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Prov. 13:12).

What do women long for? While women do value significance and meaning in their work, they also long for intimacy in relationship.

Seeking intimacy with the Lord has sustained me in the “now, but not yet” aspect of life and God’s kingdom. The Bible instructs us to be honest and pour out our hearts to the Lord (Ps. 62:8). This way, we keep our heart alive and its longings close to the surface, though painful. As we open our hearts to God and his will, he can pour out his love and give us both a vision and a desire for what he is calling us to do today.

An additional benefit of choosing to be fully alive is that it has a ripple effect on our relationships, family, and even our work.

2. Be fully female.

God has made us uniquely male and female, in his image (Genesis 1:27). The fact that he has you in the office and not at home nurturing children right now is not a mistake. Not only are you designed with specific talents unique to you, your perspective as a woman adds richness to a work product that otherwise might only have a male perspective.

While women have different strengths, being fully feminine may mean letting an empathetic, nurturing side show through as you interact with colleagues and add your input to projects.

God has also designed many women, like him, to be strong protectors of the weak and vulnerable. Author Carolyn Custis James writes that the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer), used to describe women in Genesis 2:18, can be defined as “strong helper,” even like a warrior. Without the work of women, our society would be a much different place.

3. Know God.

When years pass and longings go unfulfilled, some single women begin to lose enthusiasm about growing their skills on the job and lose faith in God’s loving character.

In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, we learn how important it is to put our faith in who God really is. Many people learn from this parable we are to invest and grow our talents for God, not “bury” them. This is true. But few understand how it also teaches that trusting in the true character of God compels us to serve him well. The servant who buried his talent said,

”Master,’ he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground” (Matt. 25:24-25).

The wicked servant buried his talent because he didn’t trust in the character of God. If we serve a God of love, who gave his one and only son on our behalf, can’t we trust him with our hearts and our vocation?

4. Know Your Purpose.

When we have a transcendent, God-given purpose, everything looks different. I’ve seen single Christian women go from tears and slumping in their chairs to sitting up straight with hope in their eyes when they are reminded of their identity in Christ and their purpose. Each one of us, no matter our marital status, plays an active role through our work in God’s master plan of restoration through Jesus Christ.

This is where churches can do better in coming alongside single women, not just to comfort and encourage them as they live a single life, but to challenge them in their calling.

The topic of Christian singleness and vocation, like life’s most pressing and difficult questions, deserves a rich theology. Whether we’re packing lunches or sitting at an office computer, we owe it to ourselves to wrestle with the Lord and dig into scripture to reflect deeply and soundly about our vocations.

This article is republished with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Visit https://tifwe.org/subscribe to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog.

Unearth Hidden Stories from African-American History in Digital Archive

Unearth Hidden Stories from African-American History in Digital Archive

File 20181127 76746 1yiewo2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Team member Felix Knight looks through archives at the Church of Espiritu Santo in Havana, Cuba.
David LaFevor, CC BY-SA

Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in the archives of Spanish Florida, I discovered the first “underground railroad” of enslaved Africans escaping from Protestant Carolina to find religious sanctuary in Catholic Florida. In 1738, these runaways formed Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first free black settlement in what became the U.S.

The excitement of that discovery encouraged me to keep digging. After doing additional research in Spain, I followed the trail of the Mose villagers to Cuba, where they had emigrated when Great Britain acquired Florida. I found many of them in 18th-century church records in Havana, Matanzas, Regla, Guanabacoa and San Miguel del Padrón.

Today, those records and others live on in the Slave Societies Digital Archive. This archive, which I launched in 2003, now holds approximately 600,000 images dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Since its creation, the archive has led to new insights into African populations in the Americas.

An archivist works with a document from Paraiba, Brazil.
David Lafevor, CC BY-SA

What we’ve found

The Slave Societies Digital Archive documents the lives of approximately 6 million free and enslaved Africans, their descendants, and the indigenous, European and Asian people with whom they interacted.

When searching for and preserving archives, our researchers must race against time. These fast-vanishing records are threatened daily by tropical humidity, hurricanes, political instability and neglect.

The work is usually challenging and sometimes risky. Our equipment has been stolen in several locations. Soon after we left the remote community of Quibdó, Colombia, a gun battle erupted in the surrounding jungles between the government military forces and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known as FARC. It’s no wonder that one of our team members called what we do “guerrilla preservation.”

This hard work has allowed us to discover more about the lives of slaves in the Americas. For example, the Catholic Church mandated the baptism of enslaved Africans in the 15th century. The baptismal records now preserved in the Slave Societies Digital Archive are the oldest and most uniform serial data available for African-American history.

The cover sheet of Baptisms for St. Augustine, dating from 1716.
Slave Societies Digital Archive, CC BY-SA

These unique documents also offer detailed information regarding the diverse ethnic origins of Africans in the Atlantic world. Once baptized, Africans and their descendants were eligible for the sacraments of Christian marriage and burial, adding to their historical record. Through membership in the Catholic Church, families also generated a host of other religious documentation, such as confirmations, petitions to wed, wills and even annulments.

In addition, Africans and their descendants joined church brotherhoods organized along ethnic lines. These groups recorded not only ceremonial and religious aspects of their members’ lives, but also their social, political and economic networks.

A page of burials of unbaptized ‘Asiaticos’ from the Cathedral of San Carlos de Borromeo in Matanzas, Cuba.
Slave Societies Digital Archive, CC BY-SA

Previously unknown church records for Havana’s black Brotherhood of St. Joseph the Carpenter document the membership of Jose Antonio Aponte, executed by Spanish officials in 1812 for leading an alleged slave conspiracy. Our records similarly document the marriage and death of another famed “conspirator” – the mulatto poet Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes, better known as Placido.

Africans and their descendants also left a documentary trail in municipal and provincial archives, including petitions, property registries and disputes, bills of sale, dowries and letters from owners granting slaves their freedom.

Sharing our discoveries

My work in the rich records in Florida, Spain and Cuba taught me how to track early African history elsewhere. Additional grants have allowed our archival teams to expand to new sites in Brazil, Cuba and Colombia and, finally, to digitize the church records for Spanish Florida.

Thanks to those records, and the excavations of archaeologist Kathleen Deagan, Mose, the settlement that I first studied as a graduate student, is today a National Historical Landmark. It boasts a new museum where the Fort Mose Historical Society organizes historical reenactments and community events.

Documents are sometimes found in damaged condition – like these record shards from Matanzas, Cuba.
Slave Societies Digital Archive, CC BY-SA

Each of the modern nations whose African history we are tracking still struggles with the legacy of slavery. Both scholars and the public who are interested in African heritage can look at these materials to help define national identities in multicultural societies. For example, the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 granted land rights to self-identified quilombolas, or runaway slaves. One group was able to find their ancestors in church records we preserved for the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Since the archive’s inception, we have worked to ensure that these precious materials are freely available to the interested public. Our teams also provide copies of all digitized records to our host churches and archives, as well as donate cameras and other necessary equipment to allow local teams to continue preserving their own endangered history.

Next, we hope to begin a new project in the Dominican Republic, Spain’s first colony in the New World and my childhood home. It boasts many of Europe’s “firsts” in the Western Hemisphere. The capital of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Spaniards established the first monastery, the first hospital, the first court of appeals, the first university, the first cathedral in the Americas – and a free black town that predates Mose, the site where all this work first started.

Credit: Slave Societies Digital Archive, CC BY-SAThe Conversation

Jane Landers, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.