. . . that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. – I Tim. 2.2.
I’m coming to learn that a life of Purposeful Simplicity is understanding my place in the world and finding contentment in it.
I think most people — especially women — bristle at any reference to “knowing our place” because it’s reminiscent of the 1950’s propaganda that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
That is not what I’m talking about. But. It may be a little what I’m talking about.
Let me explain.
We’re fed the belief from all around us that we can have it all and that we should have it all right now. We should have an awesome marriage (if we want to be married) and healthy, talented children, and a great house, and a job that’s fulfilling. We should get to pursue our dreams.
The form this message takes in the Christian world is the push to “make an impact” or “change the world.” I understand that the sentiment behind these phrases is for us to look outside ourselves and reach others. But sometimes in focusing on changing the world we can start focusing on making a name for ourselves. We can strive for a bigger and better ministry than God wants to give us. We can forget that following Christ is leading a peaceful and quiet life, being faithful in the little ways that no-one notices.
Not all of us get to have awesome marriages. Not all of our ministries are successful and growing. Not all of us have healthy and talented and thriving kids. Most of us wouldn’t say we live in our dream house or even that our job is always fulfilling. Some of us are involved in the, let’s face it, very mundane work of keeping house and raising children. Life seems to throw constant curve balls and just when we take a step forward financially we seem to take two steps back.
We can begin to feel like this isn’t what we signed up for, this isn’t our “happily ever after,” that this isn’t “making an impact.” We can be frustrated and bored and unfulfilled. We can look ahead to a better season of life when we really get to pursue what we want.
I know I’ve felt that way. If you asked me 12 years ago, graduate school was a non-negotiable. It wasn’t “if” I’d go, but “when.” But I got married and needed to work so we could have health benefits while David did ministry. A couple years later I got accepted to a graduate program in Philadelphia, then got pregnant with Judah and decided to be a stay-at-home-mom. We’ve considered grad school on and off over the years but I’ve never felt a deep-down peace about it.
So I’ve set aside my dream — maybe forever — for the dream that God has for me. Of following my husband in ministry and being home for my kids. And yes, actually this new dream very much involves my place being in the kitchen. I’ve chafed and resented this at different points, but lately I’ve come to find peace in it. It’s the place God has for me. Why am I striving for more?
I love to write and to blog, but have a very specific sense that this is not the time to promote my blog. I don’t regularly check my stats. I don’t promote it on social media. I don’t think those things are wrong, but deep down I know they’re wrong for me right now. They’re striving beyond the place God has for me in this season. He’s given me this opportunity to write, but He’s said, “Your place is to be small and to find freedom in being small.”
I love to do ministry and have intentional relationships with women, but because I’m homeschooling two grades I can do very little of that right now. My mentor said to me, “Julie, there will be years when you have time and space to pursue women; now is not that time. Will you accept that? Will you accept that God can use other people to disciple women right now and that He wants to use you in a different way, in your home with your family?”
I share these specifics in my life, but of course your place may be completely different. That’s the beauty of how God made us all.
Maybe you’re a working mom, and so your place is accepting that you can’t be really involved in your kids’ school or in many other friendships right now.
Maybe you have very young babies and your place means you have to say “no” to regular serving in church.
Maybe your marriage is struggling and your place is to accept the struggle and reach out and ask for help.
Maybe your husband works crazy hours and your place is knowing you can’t practice hospitality in this season of life because you need any family time you can get.
Maybe you’d love to go to graduate school but have a sense that you shouldn’t be taking out more student loans, so you wait until a season when you can afford it.
Maybe your place is finding contentment in plodding along in a mediocre job, working hard to get out of debt before you pursue your dream career.
I think having dreams is fun and good. But demanding dreams is bad. Pining for dreams can be bad. It makes us miss the gifts and the calling God has for us here and now. It can make us miss a life of purpose.
God offers so much freedom and fulfillment if we humble ourselves and accept our place, if we accept that our lives and our families may very well look unremarkable to the world and that’s okay.
We find freedom when we accept that there are dreams we may never get to see realized. We find freedom when we give to God the unfulfilled places in our life and let Him fill us up with Himself. I think this sort of simple acceptance is the path to joy.