There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not women can have it all, and by all people usually mean work full time as a mother. But all this talk about what a woman can or cannot do in her various seasons of life can be applied to any age, any marital status, and any amount of children in the home. A recent Forbes article states that young women today don’t feel as inclined towards leadership because of fear of failure. They have been told their entire lives that they can have it all, and unfortunately they have heard that they must be it all. The author says:
“The recent debate over ‘having it all’ underscores the pressure women put themselves under to perfectly excel in all conceivable areas of our lives.”
I’m sure we can all relate at some level.
We see a woman work a forty-hour work week, serve her church with gusto, and still get a decent meal on the table nearly every night, and then feel like a failure when we burst into tears just trying to boil water at the end of a full day of work. “If she can do it all, why can’t I?” we wonder silently. So we work harder. Try to do more.
Or maybe you have kids, and you see a mom whose kids are always clean, always happy, and always eating the healthiest food. Yet you consider getting a shower before 3pm a tremendous accomplishment in the midst of your busy days with toddlers. Are you doing enough?
To make it more personal (at least for me), you see a writer who can crank out multiple life-changing articles a week, while you are still struggling to finish the one that’s due tomorrow. Why can’t you do more for the kingdom?
The real issue is not so much about doing it all, as it is about being faithful with what is in front of you. A lot could be said about the wisdom of trying to be all things to all people, but that is another post for another day. More than anything, this pressure to have it all and still have a smile on your face at the end of the day is often self-made pressure rooted in unhelpful comparison.
One thing that has taken me a long time to figure out is that all of us have limitations and thresholds. They vary from person to person, and even from season to season, but they are there. There are things that I cannot do if I have too much on my plate. To some people, I might look like I am doing it all. To others I might look like a complete failure. The point is that we are all called to faithfulness with what we have been given. God has created some people with remarkable energy levels. They can accomplish a lot in a day. You probably know some of them. But he has also created some with lesser energy levels. Both types of people are useful in God’s economy. He has created some people with an incredible capacity for efficiency in a short period of time. Yet others take longer to complete a task. Both are fruitful people in their season and capacity level.
The demands of “having it all” that we place on ourselves as women are not simply relegated to the feminist conversations or the corporate boardrooms. They are warring in our own soul every day when we see the tasks set before us.
The only hope for us in the vicious quest to have it all is to recognize that we cannot have it all, not even in the slightest. There will always be more things to do, more meals to make, more square feet to clean, more articles to write, more business deals to make, and the list could go on. The only one who ever gets his to-do list done is God. And the only one who ever perfectly completed every task every set before him on this earth is his son, Jesus. And you know what? He is sitting down now. Which means we can, too. Jesus ensures that our endless pursuit of the next thing does not have to be our destiny. Jesus ensures that our striving to have it all does not have to rule us. And he ensures that our sinful comparison of our life to the woman standing next to us will have no dominion over us.
When we face another day of not being able to have all we wish for, we must look to Jesus. He did it all for us, so we don’t have to be a slave to our work, whatever that work might be. We can live each day in freedom, knowing that God is well pleased with us because he is well pleased with his son, Jesus. We can do our work with joy, and not anxiety, because we know that our ultimate fulfillment is found not in the praise of men but the praise of God.
Women can’t really have it all, any more than men can. It’s all an illusion. Only one person has ever had it all, and he gives it freely to us if we simply rest in him.