Career or Home: Where Should a Wife Find Her Satisfaction

Oh, pity the prodigy, Farkle McBride!

No matter what instrument poor Farkle tried,

Whether strumming,

or blowing

or drumming,

or bowing,

His musical passions were unsatisfied.

The Remarkable Farkle McBride was one of my little brother’s favorite books. I read it to him so much before I moved out that I can recite it from cover to cover. Even though I’ve since realized some ideological errors in Lithgow’s story (six year old should not fling flutes into lakes; who has money for all those instruments?), I still read the book to my little boy. When he’s sitting in my lap, nestled tightly against me, I often feel the satisfaction that young Farkle seeks.

I was reminded of the young musician when I checked my inbox this morning:

Here’s a real question. What should satisfy wives of Christian men? Should we be happy only supporting our husband and watching children? Can we pursue our own goals and still be “Biblical”?

Answering With A Jesus Juke

If you ask me where we’re supposed to find satisfaction in this life, I apologize in advance for the Sunday school answer that will roll off of my tongue: Jesus is (Psalm 107:9; John 6:35). If you’re a fellow Sunday school graduate, you might roll your eyes and respond, of course, he is. But we all know you’re dodging the actual question.

My goal with that answer isn’t to get into a game of semantics, though. I’ve tried to be pretty transparent about my struggle with answering this question, which often has a lot more to do with my Christian subculture’s translation of biblical truth than biblical truths.

My goal in pointing back to Jesus is to rise above the false dichotomy we’re often presented: in this corner, we have the cultural stereotype of a woman who must pursue her goals at all costs — even at the expense of her family. In this corner, we have the evangelical stereotype of a woman who must seek satisfaction at home at all costs — even at the cost of her gifts. And never the twain shall meet.

She can’t have it all. She must either be satisfied at work or at home.

But both of these stereotypes and the peddlers thereof forget that the only real satisfaction in her life comes from Jesus.  

What Is The Actual Question

The, of course, there is not as obvious as we sometimes think it is. Because though we verbally assent to the idea that Jesus is supposed to be our all in all, we function in a way that takes him for granted and moves other things to the center.

This can happen at work… and at home.

You see, what should satisfy wives is the same thing that should satisfy husbands. If my husband is finding his satisfaction and purpose from his job, his identity is misplaced, as would be mine. If my husband was finding his entire satisfaction in me (outside of a Proverbs 5:18 kind of way), his identity would be misplaced, as would be mine if I found it in him.

For some reason, it’s always been easier for me to assent to that truth for husbands, but much harder with wives. Of course, husbands shouldn’t be satisfied with their jobs but somehow, admitting this for wives comes with a litany of caveats.

What Have We Got To Lose?

I love to write about identity.

That’s often translated as a passion for writing about biblical womanhood, which is understandable because so much of my identity has been bound up in my womanhood for so very long. And I am a woman  — wife, mother, daughter, sister — proudly and on purpose: God was particular in his design. But those things — particularly the wife and mother aspect  — tend to become all-encompassing when only Jesus should be.

This morning’s question-asker went on to say, “if you were just a wife with kids but no blogs or articles would you be happy?”

When I read this to my husband, he laughed. Not because it wasn’t a good question  — it absolutely is — but because in the long list of who I am, we both know that writer is nowhere near the top. But because that’s the most public thing I do, it’s the easiest identifier.

I’ve had to ask myself the opposite question, though. If I were not a wife, would I be satisfied? If I could not bear children, would I be satisfied? When depression darkens my door and steals so many chunks of what makes me who I am…. Can I still be happy?

Having to face these questions during my dark days has put my squabbles over biblical womanhood into stark relief: when the question isn’t career or SAHmotherhood, but the life or death of my own children… I realize that, in our efforts to uphold the dignity of wifehood and motherhood, the satisfaction test is so much harder than we often make it.

I have so much more to lose in this life than the opinion of a mommy blogger who doesn’t think I ought to be teaching two days a week. And so do you.

The Answer

Sometimes, I’m not satisfied with writing. Or teaching. Or motherhood. Sometimes, I’m not happy.

Happiness is completely meaningless when its divorced from Christ.

It sounds like a Jesus Juke, but its a time-tested theory lived out on the bathroom floor after a miscarriage, in tears over a make-or-break season of marriage, in professional humiliation, in the darkness of depression.

The ways that I structure my life and my gifts have much less to do with constructing prime personal satisfaction than with satisfying my Maker. Whatever is on my plate during a particular season presents opportunities to grow in my understanding of and willingness to serve the center of my satisfaction: my Savior. This side of heaven, I’ll never reach full satisfaction, but glorification awaits me. 

I can’t tell you if your job is an idol. I can’t tell you if your marriage is an idol. I can’t tell you if waking up in your right mind or being of sound body is an idol. But I can tell you that your work, your family, your health… those are all gifts meant to be stewarded in the service of Almighty God, and they could all be gone tomorrow, and he’d still be Almighty God. Being satisfied in him is a constant battle; just ask Job. But it’s a battle I am willing to fight. 

We can talk about moms and their priorities. (I’ve done it plenty). But not before we get this right. Because if our concern for prizing wifehood and motherhood is the primary focus of our message for women, we aren’t speaking with biblical priorities any more than the world we claim to be combatting is. Man or woman, married or unmarried, childless or house-full, satisfaction comes from Christ alone, and will only be known perfectly in eternity with him. Full stop. Deep breath. And then we can talk about everything else.

Become Known & Loved Through Christ’s Finished Work

Read my 5-day devotional and discover how an identity rooted in Jesus can defeat your shame and fear of failing to live up to extra-biblical expectations.