No one of us is just one thing anymore.
I like Jeff Goins’ phrase, “The Portfolio Life”, the title he uses for his podcast which discusses how to manage the various roles we play. The idea is that we aren’t necessarily defined by one career. Our lives are composed of complex layers, with overlapping responsibilities, which in its aggregate make up the beautiful spread of our life journey.
I’m thankful to have had a rich and full portfolio. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend. I was a student, a missionary, and currently, I’m an administrative assistant. I am an activist and advocate for the global poor. I am a wife and mother of two. The latest file I’ve added to my portfolio is that of a writer. Modern demands on our portfolio lives can be overwhelming. When I get in a rut of frenzy, feeling like there’s no margin; I often just want to quit EVERYTHING. After the unrealistic daydream escape to the Maldives subsides; when I take an honest accounting of my responsibilities to find space for sanity, writing is always sitting at the top of the list of Things To Quit.
This is because of all the hats I wear, this is the only one I put on just to look pretty. We put on athletic gear to exercise, business suits for corporate meetings, painful high heels for fancy occasions. But sometimes we reserve an outfit which is both comfortable and flattering to wear, just so our clothes match the awesomeness we feel on the inside. This is what writing is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my readers and am floored when my writing actually impacts other people. But mainly I write because it is my way of living out my truest self, unleashing the creative potential within me, channeling my ambitions and drive, and demanding the world reserve a space for my words, my voice, for just, me.
Now we begin to tap into the deeper reasons my reflexive response is to quit writing. It is because our society will cheer a man on in pursuing such ambitions, but will say to a woman like me, “hey, well, if you’ve got time, that seems like a good idea.” A man is worthy of occupying a space in this world just for him, but a woman’s worth is inextricably bound to other people and obligations.
As a Chinese Christian girl, the script for my life was to marry, have children, slip in a side job (perhaps as a piano tutor), and serve as an encouragement and blessing to other women. We have solid support systems in place to help women who fit within this narrative thrive while wearing those hats. A lifetime of socialization prepares women for the scripted path. For those of us who wish to venture beyond it, it is a daily battle of giving ourselves permission. The expectation to live for other people has become so normalized in society that it becomes counterintuitive for women like me to feel okay about asking for a space just for me.
The creation account in scripture is a profound testimony to men and women bearing the likeness of our Creator. God entrusted this incredible, sacred task of stewardship and exploration to us so that daily we draw Divine inspiration to go forth and create beautiful things. But the task of creating is a laborious, sometimes grueling process, so much so even God rested on the seventh day. In writing, I desperately crave the support of my loved ones to hold me up when I’m tired. In writing about faith, I covet the prayers of the Church to fuel my God-given gifts to speak truth and to speak it well.
This task, to make beautiful things, is for both genders. But for centuries the world has given men the entire landscape and limited women to a small canvas. Some of us are finding our brushstrokes sweeping out of bounds, our vibrant colors spilling off the page and splattering big, beautiful art beyond our space.
Will the people of Creator God, the Church worldwide, rise up with a clarion call to women to create their masterpieces? A call loud enough so the world can hear, but soft enough to be received by the ears of every little girl and the wrinkled hands of graying women, to pick up their paintbrush, or stethoscope, or violin bow, or calculator, or spatula, or microphone, or whatever their instrument of choice is to inflict this world with beauty?
Will the Church silence the voices of those who would reserve certain positions for men, and boldly carve out space for women? Space in the pulpit, on elder boards, in classrooms? Will we demand that the world make space for our sisters in every arena of life – in the courtroom, on every rung of the corporate ladder, on the Hollywood set, in science labs and tech industries?
We, who are tasked with breaking in the fullness of creation, who are the bearers of Resurrection life; are we not the ones responsible for paving the road to equality?
The picture is incomplete right now. The job God gave to humanity is a job half done. Until we share the whole landscape we won’t get to see the beauty God intended. Tell our sisters they no longer need to ask for permission, they were given it from the beginning of human history.
Throughout history, the powerful parsed out mere scraps of canvas, but now we knock those pieces off their easels, put the paintbrush in the hands of those who have forgotten how to draw, and proclaim: there is space for you, go forth and create.
Empty space is a travesty to artists. Blank pages are offensive to writers. Watch what happens when the world gives women space: they can’t not fill it with a brilliance that can only come of people created in the image of God.
“Male and female God created them.”
It was very good. ~ GOD