Living the Tension of Family & Ministry: One Woman’s Journey

“What do I tell a woman who loves the Lord with all her heart? Who feels called to His service? We have women desiring to leave their husbands and children. Abandon their homes. To go and preach.”

Eyes full of his own thoughts, he observes my face, watching for my response. I taste the tension in his words. The tension every woman feels with warring desires in her heart.  I know what it is to feel the emotion he described. To desire to be used for God’s kingdom.

My head knows the answer he wants to hear. My heart knows its own longing. That longing has prompted many late-night conversations and turned the path of my own study towards God.

Husband? Check. A husband with callings of his own and very clear direction about what he is and is not called to.

Children? No. They were but a twinkle in the eye.  A distant possibility. Depending on the will of the Sovereign Lord.

So we packed our bags and headed west. No job to come to, but opportunity to discover one. Faith. Hope. Partnership together.

I sat in classrooms where (at the time) men outnumbered women 3:1. When the stereotype hadn’t yet changed, and folks automatically assumed my husband was a theology student. (Enter more late night conversations where he wisely said, “Let’s face it. We’re not the norm right now. That’s okay! Just go with it.”)

Eugene Peterson has said, “It is fairly common among people who get interested in religion or God to get proportionately disinterested in their jobs and families, their communities and their colleagues—the more of God, the less of the human. But this is not the way God intends it. Wisdom counters this tendency by giving witness to the precious nature of human experience in all its forms, whether or not it feels or appears ‘spiritual.’”

Living in the tension of juggling family and ministry is the human experience on this side of eternity. Yes, I love nothing more than to sit and peruse the books that line my walls. That’s my “ideal.” (Some days, life looks like that.)  But since children have joined us and God grew our family, my “reality” involves dirty dishes, mounds of laundry, people I love who want to read with me.

How does God resolve that? How do I?

A wise woman told me, “You have a choice to make. Always.”

I have a choice to believe God cares about good food and clean clothes, about the people who need them. I have a choice to believe my holy calling involves loving the people in my life well. I have a choice to believe He gave me gifts and fully intends that I use them for His kingdom.

God also responds by giving me opportunity to use the gifts He put within me. Shepherding. Speaking. Writing. My audience and platform may look different than I once thought they would, but they are no less significant. They are congruent with my season of life.

Remember that, daughter of Eve.  Wherever you are, you have opportunities to be used in God’s kingdom.  

My friend, a pastor from another culture, showed me in his question that women all over the world face similar struggles. We live in the tension. We always have choices to make.
The apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 remind me of our dilemma. The first century church faced the tension as well.

To use Peterson’s paraphrase, “All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society. Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don’t, out of old habit, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you. Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with him at your side.” (1 Corinthians 7:23-24, MSG)

Circumstances, calling, gifting, desire. All of those are part of our journey. They appear different at different seasons of life. They rarely look like we expected them to. Still, God can be trusted as we walk the journey of faith with him.

“Hold the high ground with him at your side.”

Kelly Arabie

Kelly Arabie most enjoys heart-level conversation and guiding women in soul care. Her desire to study God’s Word and help women apply it to their lives led her and husband Tre to Dallas from their home in Louisiana. She earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and served on staff as both Women’s Ministry Director for Coppell Bible Fellowship and Women’s Ministry Counselor at Insight for Living. Kelly’s experiences of shepherding by godly women have given her a deep desire to see women cared for in the Body of Christ worldwide, especially in cross-generation relationships.

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    Thank you, Kelly, for this

    Thank you, Kelly, for this beautiful reminder… We will always live with tension this side of eternity, BUT He is with us, He is for us & He will use us right where He has us.