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;
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.
Have you been following our Faith and Work Series? The Urban Faith team understands the importance of connecting faith to your everyday life, particularly for young adults.
So, for the past few weeks, we have been working hard to bring you quality content on faith and work, and now we are going to turn our focus on some folks who are actually making that happen in their respective industries. Each entrepreneur and professional that will be featured in our “15 Questions for Success” series will give us their road map to success and answer questions on how their faith plays out in their careers.
Our first installment of 15 Questions for Success features Shawn Dove, CEO for the Campaign For Black Male Achievement. Shawn is a man of faith who is invested in creating a future where black males and their families can thrive. Check out what Shawn has to say below:
1. When people ask you what you do, how do you answer that?
I have all these things inside of me. A preacher. An ad exec. Writer. A motivational speaker. A salesperson. A coach and a mentor.
2. When you think of the word ‘successful’ who is the first person that comes to mind and why?
My mother. She was a single mom and she had to make sacrifices on her dreams and vision to raise me in environments and make me the man I am today. She embodies generosity, vision, and sacrifice. So that’s what comes to my mind.
3. What role does faith play when it comes to your career?
Faith is everything. I would not be…speaking to you. I would not be doing the work I’m doing if it wasn’t for God who carried me up to this point. Faith is essential because it can get discouraging. God gave you two hands. One to build with and one to fight with.
4. What does the first 60-90 minutes of your day look like?
If I’m lucky I wake up. I go downstairs and get coffee. I light some incense and pray. I read devotionals and stretch. I also have this men’s [phone call] I’m on. The Manhood Legacy call. Journaling is also part of my mission. I’ve been journaling since I was 14-15 years old and it helps me get my thoughts together. So that’s my morning from about 5:00-7:30 a.m.
I also have to put out my daily tweet. If I don’t do that then it’s like my world is not right.
“Arise and Shine! Glow & Go be a blessing to someone today. And when in doubt just ask God to let you be a light and to use you as He sees fit”
5. What are you really good at that people might not realize?
I would say helping people deliver “breech” dreams. Stuff that they’ve been trying to push out on their own but can’t push out on their own. I have twin boys and my son Cameron came out first but Caleb was born breech. He was coming out feet-first. 9 minutes later his vital signs were dropping. Doctors had to help pull him out. That’s what I do for people’s dreams
6. How has knowing who you are affected your life, and how has it played a role in major life decisions?
Well, by knowing what makes you tick helps you know what ticks you off. After I got into my 40’s and 50’s I became more comfortable with who I am and what my calling is. So there’s a certain level of peace and it’s all in divine order.
7. What do you most love about what you do?
I love my job. I love investing in other people’s dreams and helping to inspire leaders. I’m the CEO the Chief executive officer of CBMA but I love my role as the Chief Evangelical Officer. I love seeing people on the edge of the pool and I’m the kid who’s going to give you that nudge to push you into the deep end.
8. What should someone ask to determine their passion?
First, ask, “Why am I here?” The second is “What do I want my eulogy to say?” That will determine what direction they should go in.
9. How do you define success?
My eulogy will serve to be someone else’s life epilogue. And what I mean by that is the epilogue shows there’s more to the story than the last chapter. I want people to say they were ready to quit. Then they hear about how I lived and died and they are renewed. They don’t want to give up.
10. What habits or skills are most important to living a successful life?
Forgiveness. I have to forgive myself in the areas where I’ve failed. Having to resign from my first executive director’s position almost 30 and go into rehab I had to forgive myself for that because it was the most important thing I could have done in my life.
You also have to have empathy. That’s one thing I’ve learned being married and having children and leading an organization such as ours. Empathy is necessary.
Then I would say vision and a sense of completion, being open and teachable, and working with people and collaborating. [And finally, you must have] resiliency. You have to be able to bounce back from adversity.
11. If you instantly lost everything, what steps would you take to become successful again?
Well if it’s just my job or career, I would focus on everything else I have and not on what I lost. I still have my wife and my children. I still have my relationship with God. Then I would just start doing what got me here in the first place: writing, speaking, leading. I’m a servant leader so I would ask where can I serve.
12. How do you maintain productivity throughout the day?
Well, some days are more productive than others. I escape the office to have lunch to get reenergized. I also drink a green shake for energy in the mornings. And, a to-do list is must. I have a tendency to procrastinate so I make sure I knock things off my to-do list. Also, I make sure that it’s not about my productivity but the productivity of the team. Which means I have to delegate [tasks] and trust my team.
13. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Stop stalling on my calling and just jump in! Also, develop a sound financial plan and be maniacally disciplined with that plan.
14.What books would you recommend on career and business to someone just starting out?
I would say “Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice” by Dennis Kimbro, “As A Man Thinketh” by James Allen, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, and John Ortberg’s book “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got To Get Out of the Boat.”
15.What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out or interested in making a career change?
Stop stalling on your calling and just jump. You have more resources and influence than you think. Get a piece of paper or journal and answer these questions:
What season am I in? What’s holding me back? What is God preparing me for? Who do I know that can help me? How did I navigate a season similar to this one?