15 December 2008

Every power as Thou shalt choose

Why does God give women brains? This question is asked with rhetorical snottiness by those women who avoid pregnancy and/or child rearing in favor of other pursuits, and dreary but genuine inquiry by the rest of us. I've been pondering it myself for a long time and here's what I've got: absolutely nothing new, but maybe you're bored today. Please keep in mind I'm not exactly a great thinker.

You are American, therefore you are a pragmatist (and, as we were reminded on a Groundhog Day of yore, a nominalist--but let's save that for another time). You value things for their practical application, including yourself. You look at your set of skills and consider them wasted if you don't use them "out there in the real world."

But what does Scripture say? "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made"--NOT fearfully and wonderfully useful. Your gifts are who God has made you, in addition to being tools he has given you to use. Their application not more valuable than the testimony your unique existence gives to his creative power. So first of all, you are smart, beautiful, gifted, virtuous, because you are a work of God, not because he needed a sculptor or an engineer or a blogger down there to straighten things out.

For Adam no suitable helper was found. A heifer wasn't good enough. The man needed someone corresponding to him. Philosophers have suggested that humans seem to uniquely possess such characteristics as questioning, laughing, believing, communicating through language, etc. What's good for the gander is a goose, ie someone who can fly, honk, float, and give him a gosling. So second, you match your husband, who is almost certainly human. Laugh with him, will ya?

Let's get messier, though. To a certain extent, people see through pragmatism's weaker arguments; for example, most women are willing to sacrifice their college bikini ratings to have children. But to completely give up the protections pragmatism offers our pride is difficult. If I'm this smart, don't I deserve an advanced degree? Or, more cunningly: Isn't it bad stewardship for me not to cultivate and make use of my talents? For the glory of God, of course?

Lest we forget, there is an office in the church which frees women to make full use of their extra-parturitional gifts and talents: virginity. But let's assume we're speaking of people who opted out of that. Are they being bad stewards by reading board books rather than starring in movies, issuing Band-Aids instead of performing surgery, negotiating Lego-sharing and not drafting contracts?

Well, you stewardship-mongering pragmatist, why did God give you a functional uterus if what he really wanted you to use was your impossibly extraordinary brain/talent/looks/whatever? It amazes me that after what my own personal goulash of organs, juices, and hair has been through in the past five years, it can still function nearly as well as it could before my first pregnancy (and the "nearly" is pretty artificial since it refers mostly to deliberate, exclusive exercise, for which I rarely have opportunity now). It would be bad stewardship of this protoplasmic marvel not to keep having kids, since God has equipped me so well for the task. After my last labor, I wonder if I'm not starting to acquire some actual skill when it comes to childbirth (don't worry, it still hurt something awful). Let liberals train for critical societal boons like marathons. I'm training for overpopulation, and I'm getting darn good at it.

As I heard in a stewardship sermon recently (not from my husband, btw, or any of the usual suspects), there's a fourth T beyond time, talent, and treasure: tissue. Work it, girls.

About that spectacular brain: wake up, self. What great improvements has the world missed out on in the past five years since it's been deprived of my public presence? To paraphrase a quotation shared by one of my beautiful associates: much of what I thought was my talent was just pride. Moreover, the sin-bleeped world I will always have with me, but I will not always have my children as such. We're getting to a simple answer you've heard before, but listen again: the only people to whom you are irreplaceable are the members of your family. You're your kids' only mom, even if you sing like Diana Damrau, shrink government like Margaret Thatcher, or criticize texts like Barbara Aland.

Other people can sing. Other people can shrink governments. Other people can tell Kurt he's full of crap. And they will. But no one else can be your kids' mom. Fulfilling the tasks associated with that office is something you can always do in good conscience--unlike those other things, which leave the nagging worry in the back of your mind about what in your kid's life you're missing while you're off doing them. No one can ever regret the unimpeachable good she has done her children by giving them life and serving them as only a mother can (although the devil and the world will surely impeach for all they're worth).

Even secular sociologists will tell you there is no better way for you to serve society (aka the world) than taking care of your own family. This is the most important task on anyone's stewardship list. If you're a gourmet chef cooking for your family every night--your family is exceedingly blessed. I wish my family got such great treatment. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. What is the world to you, anyway, with all its vaunted diners? We all want the best for our children--how foolish it would be to forget to give them the best of ourselves, whatever that might be.

Why did God give you a brain? Because He gives all people brains for His glory and the good of
His people, starting with the little ones asleep upstairs and the big one off at another blasted meeting. Go on, thank Him. And then figure out what you're going to feed everybody tomorrow.


Reb. Mary said...

Just in time--I was about to start harassing you about this promised post.

Thx x 1,000,000 :D

Again I say, please remind of all this when I re-forget 5 minutes from now.

(But, what AM I going to feed everyone...tonight?!?)

Pam said...

Way cool, Rebekah. As usual. Smacks of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, only Lutheran. So glad you can write this for those who may be now going through the transition you three ladies have managed.

Which brings ME to request a post, as one who started out quiverfull-minded before even being married. What is it that made you think the way you initially did? And what is it that brought about the change in thinking? And how is it that you arrived where you are in harmony as married couples?

Just wondering what it is that makes an impression on Lutheran feminists.

Joy said...

"Take my womb and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee..."

I'm all for full-time motherhood, and the Lord will continue to have His way with my uterus. But He'll also have His way with my hands and mind and voice and every other part of me that was created to His glory.

Beware the false dichotomy, sisters. Lex semper accusat indeed. It's easy to confuse passion for child-rearing with apathy toward everything else.

Motherhood is a balancing act. We neglect housework to tend to the baby. We neglect the baby to care for siblings or cook a decent meal for the family. I neglect the spouse and kids to organize the children's Christmas program, provide accompaniment for a service, or teach a piano lesson.

I guess I'm "other people." When called upon to employ the gifts bestowed me, I do-- as long as I can do so cheerfully. Here am I, send me, send me!

Rebekah said...

If I were only employing those gifts whose employment I found cheerful, I sure as Chicago wouldn't be doing this.

The womb cannot say to the mind, I don't need you, and vice versa. It is the flesh, the world, and the devil who pit them against each other. For those of us whose maternal equipment is the more threatened half, the rest must be more closely reined. The brain can entertain itself by noticing how ridiculous it is for someone else from church to have to watch my kids so I can teach VBS.

Joy said...

Perhaps I should rephrase.

When called to employ the gifts bestowed me, I remember that God loveth a cheerful giver. Obviously, there is much about motherhood and life in general that is mundane, painful, even humiliating. Children are not a choice (so we best just ask for wisdom, cheerfully or not), but teaching VBS is. I also said no to that this past summer. Next year I'll have to decide if I can tolerate 3 hours of Princess #3 in the sling for 5 consecutive days--and if she can tolerate it!

Gauntlets said...

Here's what I find charming and enjoyable: pondering all the shiny objects scattered about the floor. Shiny, happy objects holding hands. These things, they are my friends, with a rotten duck egg and some old string. Let the reader understand.

I've found that it takes a great deal of exercise and effort to employ what talent I've been given (and what flesh, brain, and general whateverness) within and for my family, mostly because they demand so much and expect me to get it right. Moreover, they're real people (as opposed to "my audience") and what I do with them has lasting consequences. Because I love them I want to get it right. I can't get along by sophistic gesturing alone, these days.

Hey, RM: You've got a killer brain and you look great, too. Be reminded. :D

Pam: I can sum up my conversion this way--"He who knows better how to tame a shrew, now let him speak: 'tis charity to show." That, and I realized that God really does love me more than Amy Richards loves me. ;)

Pr. H. R. said...

[Fr. Gauntlets - off stage at left - sotto voce: Thus have I politically begun my reign
And 'tis my hope to end successfully. . . ]

Pam said...

Holy cow, I don't know what planet you all are on, or maybe it's me, but I am really not following...

I figure I'll chalk it up to the strange inside jokes of the more educated (in the academic world) than I who actually know what the other is talking about.

But I still wanna know the answer to my question, especially now. What's this about "getting it right?" I mean, like, as if we ever could.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe some of ya'll think too much.

Reb. Mary said...

Just reread this and like it even more...need to download (upload?) it to my brain...

Gauntlets, ha! :D

Seriously, one of the things I was pondering is why I can try to tell myself True Things about vocation/let-God-be-God and bestow where He chooses/stewardship/etc. stuff all day long, and yet it sounds so much more plausible when I hear it from a Rebekah or a Gauntlets.

Pam, for a less Shakespearean CSPP conversion account, if you have no better way to waste your time, you can check out my post from awhile back: http://concordiansisters.blogspot.com/2008/08/cspp-conversion-progressive-tale.html
But re: the hand-holding shiny objects, I too find myself at rather a loss at the moment.

Gauntlets said...

LOL! Only one of us is thinking too much. I think it may be Tom Stoppard.

Let's just say I'm full force phase one crazy. It's only going to get worse, I'm afraid, and I cannot be held responsible for anything I say until sometime around June 2010. Blogger sociopath . . . has that one been included in the DSM, yet?

Kelly said...

Gauntlets - You made me think Michael Stipe - but if you're looking for some companionship for your shiny happy objects, you might try some Furry Happy Monsters Feeling Glad


MooreMama said...

oh, sheepers. Here I am, at work, using my brain, and I read this post, had something all intelligent to comment, read the rest of the comments, and * poof! * my brain is mush.
I think that it's all Gauntlets' fault.

Gauntlets said...

Kelly: You're the only one who understand me. :D

Mooremama: I accept full responsibility. But be warned; it's all rotten duck egg from here. ;)

Jane said...

"I'm training for overpopulation, and I'm getting darn good at it". I love that line.
We just had our fourth baby 11/17/11. Praise the Lord.
I am again in awe of how fearfully and wonderfully made we are. There is nothing in the world like looking at a brand new baby cry for the first time. Wow the Lord gave me the privilege of bringing it into this world, and raising it.