Although we’re the same age, my best friend and I lead completely different lives. She’s married with three boys (under the age of four) and is a stay-at-home mom in South Carolina, and I’m single, childless, and working at a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m reminded of our contrasting life stages whenever we talk on the phone, for our conversations are usually interrupted by her boys wanting her attention or her needing to exercise reminders and warnings regarding how they are supposed to behave. When getting off the phone, I typically laugh and shake my head at the differences, for as she heads off to cook dinner or get kids ready for bed or whatever is next, I head out to hang out with a friend, curl up with a book, hop on Pinterest, etc.
While we have two very different roles, this sweet friend and I do share a common identity and calling as Christ-following females. In part one, I unpacked the topic of our identity as image-bearers, but as women, we also have a distinct calling.
I feel called to…
I feel called to go on this short-term trip. I feel called to break up with you or for us just to be friends (ever used that one before?). I feel called to take this job or to stay home with my kids. We use this phrase a good bit, but everything I just mentioned is very subjective. Is there anything we’re all objectively called to do or to be as women?
For this, we have to go back to Genesis 2 when God made the first woman. After making man from the clay and breathing life into Him, God put him in the Garden of Eden to work and to keep it (2:4-15). After doing so, God stated, “’It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (2:18).
It’s not good for man to be alone. My guess it that we would all agree on the fact that we need community and are made for companionship. It’s that last phrase that’s the kicker. God’s solution for Adam was to “make him a helper fit for him.” What’s your knee-jerk reaction when you read that last part of Genesis 2:18? Why is that your reaction?
To understand our calling as women, we must remember that God makes this estimation. Think about the commands He gave the first man and the first woman - to exercise dominion and to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). These were things that required both genders, not just one. He made men and women in His image, and from creation, He gave them two different callings.
Called to be a Helper
In Genesis 2:18, God specifically states that woman is a “helper fit” for man. We get so up in arms about this because helping seems demeaning. Like when a teacher has an unruly student be her “helper” in order to keep the child in closer proximity and out of trouble. But, interestingly, the Hebrew word used for “helper” (ezer) can be found nineteen times in the Old Testament, and sixteen of these times, the word refers to God. For the psalmist to declare that God is his helper does not infer that God is weak or inferior (see Ps. 46:1). Instead, it asserts that God steps in to do something that the psalmist cannot accomplish on his own.
Two years ago, my water heater burst and flooded my apartment, and my roommate and I had to call maintenance to shut off our water heater and to suction the water from our carpet. Did the fact that we needed help mean that we were incompetent or stupid? No! It just meant that we needed someone who was skillful in an area that we were not.
Woman provides what is lacking in man. We cannot live without mutual assistance, and God sent Adam someone with enormous power, power that was very different from his own.
What was/is woman designed to help mankind do?
- Ultimately, to give glory to God
- To obey the creation mandates (see Gen. 1:26-28)
None of this – and I mean none of it - means that woman is made to be man’s possession or slave. As Allen Ross states in Recalling the Hope of Glory, the two were to “unite their capacities and characteristics into a spiritual union in the worship and service of the Lord.” So helping – whether helping men specifically or helping people of both genders - involves coming alongside that person or people for a purpose, and ultimately, that purpose is to…you guessed it, to honor God and to point others toward Him.
Called to be “Fit” for Man
God designed woman to be man’s ezer, man’s helper, but He also crafted her to be “fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). If you read Genesis 2’s account of how God made woman, the text depicts God as a master Craftsman who takes a rib and fashions it into something specifically for Adam. It connotes the idea of a hand-in-glove fit.
Have you ever thought about why God would make Adam from the dirt and Eve from Adam’s rib (other than making her one “prime rib”)? By doing so, He makes woman corresponding to man, yet very different from him. By being made out of him, she’s suited for him and belongs with him.
When I think of this phrase “fit for him,” I think of puzzle pieces. While puzzle pieces correspond to one another, they are different from each other. Men and women are like this. We correspond, but we’re different (and our physical differences demonstrate this in an obvious way). But beyond the anatomical differences, books like Women are Like Spaghetti, Men are Like Waffles also play on the fact that there are distinctions in how we think, feel, and view the world. As women, we’re relational nurturers, right? And all of these differences are good! Think about it, if men and women were both the same, then one of us would be unnecessary. What one lacks, the other supplies.
We need people who are different from us. We are better because of them. They sharpen us. People who are different from us are like mirrors who show us things about ourselves that we would never see otherwise. When he preaches or writes about marriage, Tim Keller often notes how his “wisdom portfolio has been permanently diversified” as a result of many years of marriage to his wife Kathy because she helps him see various options or perspective that he wouldn’t have considered on his own.
So what is your calling?
Genesis 2 describes us as “helpers.” While this calling does not change, how it plays out in your life will change. It will look different in marriage, in singleness, in the workplace, in the home, and in ministry. Our role and our individuality affects the shape of our calling, how we glorify God as a helper.
None of this means that we set aside the cultivation of our unique giftings. Rather, we should identify our God-given talents, passions, desires, and gifts, and we should use them to glorify God and to serve others.
When I was studying curriculum development in college (middle grades education major), my professor drilled the mantra “begin with the end in mind” into our heads. While this is true of writing and of designing curriculum, it’s also true for our lives. We know our purpose (“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”). We know who we are (image-bearers) and how God has made us as women (helpers). Knowing these things, we back up to consider how we should live in light of these truths. This involves identifying and cultivating what God has given to you.
In some seasons of life, we might scale back (not shelve!) what we do in one area to focus on another area. For example, childrearing or caretaking for an elderly parent will mean that one’s life will shift. We’ll set some pursuits aside (sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently) to make room for another pursuit. We make sacrifices, but we do so strategically and prayerfully. And we remember that God uses all of our circumstances to use us in the moment but also to teach us, develop us, and prepare us. With this long-term view, our calling as helpers is cultivated, developed, and nurtured over the decades of our lives. We live out our calling in the now, but we continue to learn what it looks like, ways that our calling plays out in our lives.
Unfortunately, we do not always do this perfectly. Because of sin, I have a tendency towards what I call the “4 C’s”: competition, comparison, conflict, and control. Instead of working with others, I work against them. I covet (another “C”) their calling, their role, or their season of life instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus and trusting what He has for me. I try to take control or to manipulate circumstances, especially when my scripted timeline looks so much better to me at that moment than God’s timeline.
Because of my sin, my daily time with God forms a linchpin in my life. I find contentment in my God-given identity and calling when I am pursuing Jesus, for the Holy Spirit enables me to walk by the Spirit instead of living according to my flesh, which wants to base my identity on what I do and which gets jealous of other people’s callings and roles. When I am consistently in the Word and meditating on God’s truth, I remember that I exist for His purpose, not my own. He has defined me, and He is directing my life (and yours) in a particular direction.
Your calling doesn’t just play out in one area of your life; it plays out in all of them - work, your personal life, your relationships, your community, and your role in the Body of Christ. How I live out my calling as a single girl on a church staff looks a lot different than my best friend who is a wife and mom. Whatever your current season of life, how are you living out your calling? Are you being strategic in it? In this particular stage of your life, are you using what God has given you for His glory and for the advancement of His Kingdom?