Review of A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World

I'm a big fan of the Phil Vischer podcast. It's a weekly podcast that's available for both audio and on YouTube that features a variety of guests and lecturers to talk about today's culture, politics, and the Christian faith. One guest that I was recently very impressed by was Katelyn Beaty, the managing editor of Christianity Today. 

Katelyn has some wonderful insight into topics affecting women and the church. I also learned that she had just written a book called A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World that addressed the controversies and concerns surrounding women in the workplace. As the breadwinner for our family of 8, I had to check it out, so I picked up the Kindle version and settled in to read it in ONE day!

First, if you like facts and figures, this book won't be as satisfying as Farnoosh's When She Makes More, and I think that's how it should be. Katelyn's attempt to approach the conversation of how a woman's desire to work, produce, and pursue higher calling requires her to talk about things she hasn't yet experienced personally in her own life (motherhood, for example.)

Facts and figures would seem out of place and possibly even presumptuous. She instead tells the stories of a handful of professional women from all stages of life and portrays their struggles and successes, along with how the church treats or encourages them.

The provocative title gives clues to the fact that yes, she does go there. She pulls from the Bible in a responsible way, referring often to the insanely popular Proverbs 31 woman to not just say "yeah, she can have garage sales or put the kids outgrown designer jeans on eBay" but rather "You could be the next CEO. Your calling is between you and God, and women -- as people --  were made to work."

As a "Born-again Believer" who has found most of my issues with church and church people to revolve around work, this was freeing for me. Katelyn is careful to not place work above the other callings in a woman's life (kids, marriage, service to community), but shows it as a part of a whole. She openly shares that we are pulled in many directions, and that sometimes, the Church's answer to the most impassioned and driven of us is to accept that work is not as important and that the desire to work should die down after 5 kids -- or rather that it was not healthy to have in the first place.

Discussing the elephant in the room is bold today. My first reaction upon hearing that a woman with no kids was going to give advice to those of us with kids (especially those of us with SIX kids) was "really... Miss Thang?" But Katelyn is both a responsible journalist and a plugged-in Christian. I felt that her assessment of the Word with regard to work was inspired and also carefully crafted to leave it up to us to seek God's counsel. Katelyn doesn't say that we should all be future CEO's, but rather that if you felt God calling you to be a CEO, there is Word to support and even guide that calling.

I've been the only working mom in the bleachers. I've had homeschool parents recognize my husband and not me because he was the one taking the kids to practice while I was away on a business trip. The dynamic between moms has been distressing and, at times, has discouraged me from doing my best in my own business. This book hasn't given me explicit permission to pursue any particular job calling. What it has done is acknowledge that we all have callings, and that some of our God-given drive may only be fulfilled through particular kinds of work. It's something that I have believed all along, but it's nice to hear it from someone else and even better to find Scripture that speak to my heart on these matters.

As a blogger and freelance writer of 10 years, I've seen a lot of hate towards working moms. The online content world is a weird one. The same moms who would accuse someone like me of not "knowing my place" for working 40-50 hours from home, traveling on occasion to conferences, and earning more than my husband while he helps with the house, farm, and care of our kids would have NO issues if I was doing all the same tasks but also made my husband go to work for 50-60 hours. In short, it's OK to work, if your work isn't as important or as profitable and you still manage to be the one who does the majority of the cooking. It's a weird new law and entirely based on social structure or tradition... not the Bible.

This book strips away all the outside forces and legalism behind some of these strange norms and says this to me. "Look, God made people to work, to enjoy it even. You will likely at some point want to work. Your work may be in the home, a cute Etsy business for 10 hours a week, or as the ambassador to a fortune 500 company. God put a calling in you, and you'll want to listen to Him to make sure all the pieces fit for marriage, kids, and career. But listening to the calling and finding peace (and even fulfillment in it) is not sinful. And if you struggle with how to balance it all, God has the answers you seek."

Bonus: This is a book about work. But what I found most valuable was a very awesome section on singleness. Because a "woman's place" often involves marriage, those who choose to work and are also single face an extra special amount of condemnation. They are assumed to pick work over love, which may be the case. But many are just doing what they feel they are called to do and they are also openly waiting for love, as well. The church doesn't know how to "handle" purposeful single living, and that's something I hope as a people we are able to work through. The stories from the women were heartbreaking and also very eye-opening.

As the mom to a daughter who is driven and focused and not interested in dating at age 18, we have already gotten the questions. "She's going to college? Great. She can get a degree before marriage." "Oh, she wants to be a nurse? That's a great career to have so she can stop before she has babies." Her calling to be a nurse would be there, single or not. I try to balance the anger I experience when it's not enough for her to want to heal people. I hope she marries. I want grand-babies. But I want her to pursue God's calling first and foremost, and God knows that better than me.

This book is a must-read for anyone who:
  • works
  • doesn't work
  • wants to work
  • fears rejection over work
  • is a man
  • is a woman
If you you've ever discussed "a woman's place" - from either side - please pick up this compelling read. Find it at Amazon for Kindle or on paperback/hardback.