I am thrilled to have Nancy Ortberg as a guest writer today.
I was so hopeful when the evening began. I was by far the oldest in the circle, but had been invited to join a group of young women, committed Christ-followers mostly in their twenties and early thirties, to talk about the intersection of faith and work.
Some were married, some single, a few engaged. A handful of them were mothers, and one or two had lovely round expectant bellies, with motherhood just around the corner. Their work? A lawyer, a couple of writers and a teacher. One was a student, others worked in the tech industry or the medical field. All were earnest in their wrestling with both this time in their lives and this tension of work, faith and life.
At least, I thought, they won’t have the same struggles my generation of women had.
None of them thought they were getting it “right.” The ones who had children and jobs were worried that their time was too fractured and that they weren’t able to give either the attention they wanted. The ones whose work was full time parenting were mourning both the pause in their career and the lack of mental stimulation their work had brought. A couple of the single women wondered aloud if pursuing their careers would make them ‘unattractive’ to the average Christian guy.
My heart sank. There were stories of other people, mostly women, who had questioned their choices in ways that left them feeling like they had missed the memo on ‘how to design a perfect life.’
“Oh, you work AND you have kids?” “How will you ever meet someone if you are so busy pursuing that career of yours?” “But aren’t you afraid you’ll never get back in the work force if you take time off now?”
Perhaps it was the situation that allowed the conversation to go to these places, but no matter what the reason, it made me ache that we are still here.
I worked before I had kids. I stayed home full time for a few years when I had kids. I worked part-time when I had kids. Eventually I worked full-time. And in all of it, God was there.
Listen. There is NOT simply one way to have a good life. There are many ways to have a good life. Why is that so easy to forget? Maybe women need to be reminded of this most of all. Maybe many of us need to get this tattooed somewhere where we can easily look at it to be reminded of this profound, life-giving truth…THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO HAVE A GOOD LIFE.
I know women who are full time stay at home moms. Women who have kids and work. Women who work and don’t have, or maybe don’t want kids. You know them too. And in every single one of their lives, God is present. He is active as they work, delighting in the difference they are making in the world. He is near when they are bent down playing with their children, delighting in the difference that is making in the world. He is present with them in their singleness, delighting in who they are.
And rather than criticize or compare, we should lean in, eyes wide with curiosity, and ask questions. Tell me about the life you have carved out for yourself in this season? Tell me about what it is like, what you are learning, where are your joys and fears, where you are experiencing God in all of it? And maybe, if we increase the curiosity and decrease the judgment, we will see a new generation of women, living deeply with God, knowing He is pleased with their creation of value in His good world.
Nancy Ortberg served as a teaching pastor for eight years at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. During that time she lead Network, a ministry that helps people identify their spiritual gifts and find a place of service in the church, and Axis, a weekly gathering for the eighteen- to twenty-something generation.
She is a founding partner of Teamworx2, a business and leadership consulting firm affiliated with Patrick Lencioni, which provides fast-paced, practical, and compelling sessions to leaders and their teams. Teamworx2 works with businesses, schools, nonprofits, and churches to address issues of organizational effectiveness and teamwork. Nancy is currently working at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church as the Director of Leadership Development where she is working to create a dynamic and innovative approach to leadership development.
Nancy is the author of Looking for God: An Unexpected Journey through Tattoos, Tofu, & Pronouns and, Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands, Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership.
She and her husband, John, live in the Bay Area and have three children: Laura, Mallory, and Johnny.