As a young girl, I always hoped I would grow up to be a wife and a mother. I had other aspirations too, including becoming an Elementary School teacher just like my mother. But being a wife and a mother were at the top of my list. I wanted those things because I grew up in a home and family where I saw them as valued and esteemed roles. My own understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood would be further developed in the years to come when my husband and I became Christians and in full time ministry. With a deep understanding of God’s Word, we taught others and have tried to live our lives as Godly as possible. However; it was in my formative years where I first saw the beauty of God’s design for marriage and family. And my heart longed for it.
Growing up as the older of two siblings …a brother and a sister, I was “blessed” with an understanding that boys and girls, though similar in many ways, are also quite different. Some of my favorite things to do as a little girl were making “mud pies” outdoors and letting them dry in the hot summer sun on the concrete steps out back of our house. I loved digging up what I called, “doodle bugs” buried in the dirt floor of an old barn in the backyard. My brother and sister would join me for fun times at my grandpa’s house in the countryside (only a mile away from where I grew up) and we would play in the barns on the acres of grandpa’s farmland and run all over the place with our many cousins. We would climb the very tall, beautiful old Southern trees in our front yard as we pretended to hide from the world. And, swinging as high as we could go from an old tire swing my daddy made was the joy of being young and carefree. Waiting by the curb in front of our house for the Ice Cream truck on summer days was an everyday thing for us. But, while I loved keeping up with my brother and sister, I was also aware that I was different from them. It was me (not them), who would disappear to the backyard playhouse that my uncle had built for us and there I would pretend as I played house and that my husband was off “making a living for the family.” It was also me who made that little playhouse a home with all my teapots and teacups (as opposed to shark teeth and toy cars). Running through the backyard and playing with my brother and holding “Tea Time” the next day did not conflict in my childhood mind. And even now, I don’t think they should. Although girlhood and boyhood may be defined at times by pretend play, those things are only representations of a truth about manhood and womanhood that is wondrously deeper than toy guns or little porcelain cups.
“God made you a girl.” I don’t remember the first time I heard this, but I never forgot it. Those five words were an anchor even to my childhood heart. I was not a girl by chance. God created me to be a girl. I soon learned that Psalm 139:13-14 told me that God was knitting me together even in my mother’s womb. My life was not by chance. Knowing God made me to be a girl and that in itself allowed me to run free in the woods and get dirty in the mud. I could not mess up what God had made firm. Understanding God’s specific intention in creating me was particularly comforting during my adolescent years. I remember blurting out once in frustration, “I just wish I were as strong as a boy!” My mother’s words were there to steady me, “Sheila, first, being a boy is also hard. But second, God made you a gentle little girl.” Sometimes I wonder what confusion might have entered my life if she had not been there to point me very simply to God’s truth. It wasn’t complicated, but it set me free to be who God created me to be.
When my brother, sister and I were young, my mother was intentional about making our home special for her family. She was a wonderful homemaker and mother but she was also a school teacher too. All of this was her ministry but I wonder if she truly realized it was ministry. It was a powerful demonstration of what a family should be like when I was growing up. Now, I’m a pastor’s wife and have been for 37 yrs nearly. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve turned down a few ministry opportunities over the years because I knew my children needed me and they were my greatest ministry when they were growing up. I’ve tried to model for my now grown married daughters that it is a strong woman, not a weak one, who is willing to truly live out the principles of Titus 2. I grew up knowing motherhood was a good gift that took every ounce of a woman’s mental and physical energy.
I have seen biblical leadership modeled in my marriage. My husband is a pastor and a man of firm conviction. I’ve always been a peacemaker by nature and full of love for family and others. I know this is one of the many things my husband loves about me. We help and encourage one another every day of our lives and have done so for nearly 45 yrs. It was always clear that both of us were responsible for the household and have consistently agreed upon the decisions that were made. We’ve both been faithful to not disagree in front of our children. “Your dad and I are a team,” and “God has placed your dad as the leader of our family” are all phrases that still echo in my mind as we were raising our children. My own parents were excellent role models for me growing up because this is how I saw them. They did not conflict or compete with each other, but were part of God’s harmonious design.
Now, as a mother of two grown married girls myself and three precious little grandchildren, I am humbly aware that I am the first example of a wife, mother and grandmother that my family sees. By God’s grace, my husband and I hope to always model before them what it means to walk as redeemed sinners in our marriage relationship. I pray our children and grandchildren will believe His Word more than anything we will ever do or say. I also pray they will remember me looking into their eyes and telling them the same thing my mother told me, “God made you Emily and Sydney to be beautiful, sensitive and caring little girls and He made you, Daniel, to be a strong and determined little boy. And, THIS IS GOOD!”