The Highest Calling

When I first began writing this post, it was dripping with bitterness. I started again, but I still felt the influence of so many years of sadness and hurt. I was writing as Mother’s Day approached. On my mind were of all of exaggerated and sentimental statements I have heard at church, all because the creators of this observance chose for it to be on a Sunday. As a single, childless follower of Christ, I am overly defensive, easily jumping to the conclusion that other Christians are implying my life is somehow less godly. Perhaps it has less to do with the things people say on Mother’s Day and more to do with my own disappointment that life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

I love my mother. Recently, when my father was in the hospital, I spent a few days with her, just the two of us. I can’t remember the last time we had one-on-one time like that. It reminded me all of the things we have in common, like our love of words and etymology. My father is the talker and the story teller. My mother is the grammarian who tends to ‘tell it like it is’ in a succinct manner. I believe the combination of the two of them made me a writer. But I have to be careful because being an opinionated talker with a tell-it-like-it-is spirit is not always God-honoring. How I see things and how they really are isn’t necessarily the same. My hurts and defensiveness probably lead to some exaggerations of what other people have said. Certainly, I do not always take people’s words in the way they are intended. At the same time, what people say can indicate a faulty theology, and that may need to be addressed.

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

1 Corinthians 7:17

Several years ago, in an effort to decipher the meaning of, “she will be saved through childbearing” from 1 Timothy 2:15, I came across a respected Christian author stating that motherhood was the highest calling for a woman. I didn’t keep that book on 1 Timothy, so I can’t give the exact quote. What I read was a dagger to my heart. Being a mother is something I have dreamed about since childhood, but God seems to have different plans. When I got past my initial reaction to what I read, I realized that it was a ridiculous statement. What about women like Amy Carmichael and Rachel Saint who devoted their lives to ministry? Certainly, the mission field is a “high calling.” And then there is the fact that not all mothers are created equal. Some abandon their children, while others devote their lives to them and spoil them. Then there are those mothers who are clearly worthy of respect for prayerfully striving to raise godly children. We are each called to honor our own father and mother, but does the Bible instruct us to honor motherhood in general? Are all women called to be mothers?

The answer to my first question is more difficult than the second. It is plainly evident to me that not all women are called to be mothers. God uses people differently, having equipped each of us with different strengths and skills with which to serve Him. One of reasons I write is to try to encourage other women, especially younger women, that it is better to be single than to marry unwisely. I also believe that it is better to be childless than to go against God’s plan for children to be born within a marriage. I have had a professing Christian tell me that if I want to have a baby, I should just do it. I didn’t ask whether she was endorsing the expensive way or the sinful way, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t think that either option would honor God.

And Samuel said,

“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22

God is honored by our obedience to Him and our finding joy in living for Him. Obedience is truly the highest calling for any woman or man. On the other hand, seeking our happiness outside of God’s plan shows that we do not trust Him and do not find our happiness from Him. That is not faith at all; it is Saul offering the sacrifice before Samuel arrived. He was presumptuous because he wasn’t confident in God’s plan. (1 Samuel 13:8-12) God had appointed Saul as king, but the very action that Saul claimed was done to seek God’s favor, lost it for him. We have some advantages that Saul did not. We have the complete Scriptures easily available to us, and we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us live as God would have us to.

I am not fond of being single, and as the years have passed and the chances of being a mother have all but slipped away, it has caused me to grieve. But I am confident of this: God would not call me to this life without a purpose. As best as I can glean from the Scriptures, my duty is to seek God with all my heart. I strive to know Him better so that I can love Him more. I seek His will so that I can walk in obedience. It seems painful, at times. Yet, in light of what Christ suffered for me, it is such a small thing. And, further, the Bible tells us that Christ endured the suffering of the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:2) God has also set before us a promise of joy, both in this life and the life to come.

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