Women everywhere struggle with their roles and responsibilities. Living and working in another culture complicates that struggle. Some of our roles are easier to see than others. Our role as wife is primary. God gave us to our husbands to be a “helper suitable” for him. Our role as mother adds a lot of new responsibilities. If we are employed, we have more responsibilities added to our lives.
But some of our roles and responsibilities are harder to identify. Depending on our husband’s work, we may play many different roles and have many added responsibilities. As an active member of our church we will have varying roles and responsibilities. Just as good citizens, we have roles and responsibilities to fulfill.
Living in a culture other than our own complicates all these roles and responsibilities. Because of the culture we may need to slow down and take more time for social interaction.
We may not be able to ask a favor without an extended period of what seems to us “small talk.” Because of the culture we may need to ask our husband to do things that we have always done ourselves. It may not be acceptable for a woman to do them. Because of the culture we may need to take on roles and responsibilities that we don’t feel at all prepared for.
As complicated as this balancing act can be, we add change. Now I like stability. Whenever there was a change in my role and its incumbent responsibilities, I would struggle until I found stability. I would get my responsibilities organized into a program that I would try to follow with as little variation as possible. Since my husband has been in ministry our whole married life, you can imagine the trouble I had adapting to our constantly changing responsibilities. He adapted with little difficulty. He also likes stability, but sees changes as opportunities and interesting challenges. I saw changes as a threat to be subdued.
Some of the changes that come to disrupt our delicately balanced equilibrium are the same ones everyone faces. Time passes, our children get more and more independent needing less and less of our time and energy. As we get older, our bodies change and the amount of energy we can expend on our responsibilities changes. Our responsibilities to our parents change as they age and become more and more dependent on others.
I would like to share some of the things that have helped me during times of changing roles and changing responsibilities.
- Determine my priorities for that period of time. Remember these change. One day the top priority may be getting safe drinking water and on another homeschooling should be on top. Doing one part of a long-term project may be higher priority than fixing a meal that takes a lot of preparation time.
- Determine what jobs only I could do. Only I could be an encouraging wife or a school teacher to my sons. Others could speak at the next chapel or copy the tapes for the library.
- Realize it is not rude to ask someone to wait when they are asking a favor of me. If I have promised to be ready at a certain time, then I should keep my promise. But if they are interrupting something that is top priority to ask a favor, I can tell them at what time I can meet their need. They can either choose to wait or decide it wasn’t so important after all.
- Realize that if I cannot do it, God has a different plan. He may have intended for someone else to do it. Just because I always have done it in the past does not mean that God intends for me to do it forever. Or He may not want it done at this time. By doing something out of “obligation,” I may actually be interrupting His plan.
- Know that time spent with my children when they need it is my top priority then. They will not always need me in the same way and for the same amount of time. But if I don’t pay attention to them when they are young, they may not pay attention to me when they are teens. If we gain the whole world and lose our family, what have we really gained?
- Realize that when I feel like the roles and responsibilities I have at this time are not significant in the larger scheme of things than I need to get alone with God and find out what is wrong. I may be trivializing something God considers important. Or I may be neglecting something He wants me to do. I was not considering my responsibility in intercession as important. I came to see that for my husband’s work to succeed, I had a responsibility to intercede. When I was doing my part, things ran smoother and we saw more success.
- Finally, when we pass through a time when there don’t seem to be many roles for us to fill and our responsibilities don’t fill our time, it is also time to seek God. We can find things to fill empty time, but to do “the work God prepared in advance for us to do” we must seek His will.
God has marvelous surprises for us at each stage of life. He wants to fulfill us and use us in each of our roles and responsibilities. He has done such a good job of helping me become more flexible. I still don’t like change as much as my husband, but I no longer dread change like I did in the past. If you are one who finds change really hard, be encouraged, as you adapt to each change as it comes you will become more flexible. What He’s done in me, He can do in you.