“Her attentions are divided (I Cor. 7:34)” was exactly what I didn’t want to happen in marriage. I wanted to stick it to Paul, show him I could be married and undivided in my affections for the Lord, undistracted by cares of the world. I could be married and still be everything I’d been in my singleness. What is marriage if not addition? One + one equals two. Double the ministry. Double the fulfillment. Double the impact. Double everything. Win, win.
The past few months I’ve felt the subtle pressure of a kind of feminism in my heart. As Nate searched faithfully for a job and I brought home the gluten-free, sugar free bacon and the paycheck, the belief that my job itself was reason to stay the course in Denver crept in. It was internal and it was external. I believed it and others enforced the belief. Lots of stories rolled in about long periods of unemployment for husbands and how in that time wives worked 9 to 5 and they made it work and God showed them much and then after a year, two years, three years, five, God finally provided a job. They made it work, see? We could too.
Here’s where the division of my attentions made itself known: My husband deeply desires to provide for our household. He loves to work and works hard. The only time I see him rest is on our self-proclaimed Sabbath, and even then, it is work for him to still and quiet himself as a reminder that God is everything he longs to be. My husband wants to work, can work, and feels called to work—even if the work means we move to a different location.
In every other season of my life, my employment or vocation was my primary calling. I felt called to the work of the local church, in the role of nurturer and minister, and to be faithful with my pen and mind. This was my primary calling and I tried my best to do it faithfully, with joy, contentment, and an undivided heart.
In this season of life, though, my household (Prov. 31:27), my marriage, and my husband is my primary calling. He does not take the place of God in my worship, but he takes the place of all the other things I had the freedom to do in my singleness. His dreams, his goals, his desires do not trump mine. They do not have the final word over mine. But they do set the course for the direction of our family.
Think of it like this: we’re setting out to move to DC in two weeks. We can drive or fly, use a moving service or a UHaul. We can drive on RT 70 the whole way or RT 80. We can get there in any number of fashions, but there is where we’re going. In the same way, Nate has a calling and we get to be creative together in figuring out how to fulfill that calling.
This is what it means that in marriage our attentions are divided. I don’t call the shots alone anymore. Hand in hand, eyes set ahead, we walk forward together into what God has called our family.
The creeping belief that as a new and liberated Christian woman I won’t wrestle through these divided attentions is always lingering around my front door. It’s not just in the world, though, it’s in the church. From every corner women in the church are being proclaimed to, preached at, and pinterested to death that We Can Do It! We Were Made For So Much More! Loosen Those Chains! Run Free!
And again and again women are exhausted, depleted, and tacking index cards above their kitchen sinks to remind them again and again that They Can Do It!
Here’s a truth I’m learning in this time of divided attention: I cannot do it and I was not meant to.
God, in his sovereign goodness, joined me to a man in my 34th year of life. He knew I would spend my life single and undivided up until that time, and immediately after marriage, he began the deep and difficult work of turning my eyes away from the good work of singleness and to the good work of marriage. He made provision for me, the one with divided affections, competing desires, and clashing goals. He promised me in his word that I would be divided. The tearing of my flesh from my spirit—the work I thought he’d almost completed in my singleness—has begun again within marriage.
A friend texted me last night after we made the move public. She said, “‘She looks well to the way of her household’ means you never have to wonder what to do; look well after the man you’ve been called to,” and for the first night in weeks, I slept the whole night through.
I am called to look well to the way of my household. In our home that means to encourage, exhort, push, challenge, and make space for my husband to thrive. He thrives in working hard. This is the way God made him and I love him for it. The desire God has given him is to work in the government, to live nearer to our families, and to plant our lives deeply on the east coast. The rest is just details. We get to figure that out together. And God is in all of it.
. . .
If you’re a wife and you’re expending yourself exhausted trying to figure out how to be undivided, free, and full of all the life and vitality you see out there, try this experiment for a week or two or three: Just look well to the needs of your household.
For some of you that means being the primary financial provider for your home, for some of you it means staying at home, for some it means caring for children and your husband primarily, and I don’t know what it means for others. You seek the Lord, ask Him what the needs of your household are, and how you can look well to them. Then put your hand to the plow and be faithful.