There is an interesting shift currently happening in our culture around this idea of individual purpose. When individual purpose becomes more important than a collective team mission, what you essentially do is create winners and losers.
The marriage and the family basically engage in a tug-of-war for who gets to achieve their purpose and goals and who has to put theirs on the back burner.
The horrible part of that truth is that the winner is almost always the dad, and the loser is almost always the mom. And if you add in distorted bad evangelical theology, that only compounds the problem — isn’t it the wife’s job to stay at home and drown and do everything that an entire corporate generational family (grandparents, nieces, household employees, and so on) used to help the family do a hundred years ago? No, it isn’t.
In the nuclear family ideal, the mom’s job has only gotten harder — every shift of going more and more into isolation has basically meant less and less help for the mother.
And not to mention, she doesn’t even have other adults in the home to talk to about these things. So American and evangelical motherhood in my opinion is not only the hardest and most impossible work, it is also the most lonely and isolated. And impossible work plus impossible loneliness? Devastating cocktail.
Unfortunately, the church often aligns with this view. The sad reality about most teaching and preaching from the evangelical world is that it’s not trying to take us back to the ancient world of the Scriptures; as we talked about earlier, it’s trying to take us back to 1950.
I like how Wendell Berry put it in his profound essay “Feminism, the Body, and Machine” (the only essay I make sure to read at the start of every year. It’s that good). He flipped the script and asked,
How… can women improve themselves by submitting to the same specialization, degradation, trivialization, and tyrannization of work that men have submitted to? And that question is made legitimate by another: How have men improved themselves by submitting to it? The answer is that men have not, and women cannot, improve themselves by submitting to it.1
The truth is, while men have submitted to that form of work, did you know it wasn’t something at first consented to and, in fact, was met with deep resistance by men when they were called out of the home at the turn of the twentieth century?
And the mom is the one who loses. She picks up the slack at the expense of her own sanity and flourishing and well-being for the sake of the husband to find fulfillment outside of the home. And both secular and religious circles have supported this framework. The mom bears the brunt of everyone’s needs and finds no fulfillment or satisfaction for herself. Her only state is burnout.
Then secular culture steps in and says, “No! You’re a girl boss and deserve to fly just like your husband.” Which, like many harmful ideas, is true but is resting on the wrong foundation.
Because who almost always loses in that scenario?
If individual fulfillment and purpose-finding outside of the team is the goal, then hear me, there is always a loser. It’s an endless game of tug-of-war. And who loses in tug-of-war?
The weakest ones — in this case, the children.
But teams operate in the exact opposite way. Teams make decisions together. And then teams make decisions that serve everyone. And teams make calls where everyone flourishes.
Are there small moments of mutual sacrifice on teams? Of course. But those are made with the family mission in mind, building something greater or bigger. The sacrifices aren’t about allowing one individual to repeatedly get what they want over and above everyone else.
Here’s the best way to do a quick assessment to find out if you’re a team or not: ask yourself if all your assets are being deployed.
What do I mean by that?
Your family, right now, in this moment, has tons of assets — and they should be written down somewhere, like on the Family Scouting Report. You might have particular leadership skills that no one else in the family does. Your spouse might have operational giftings and vision capabilities no one else has. Your oldest kid might be supersensitive emotionally and able to sense people’s difficulties and know how to empathize or comfort them more than most. Your youngest kid might have a brilliant mind for solving problems.
So why then are they sitting on the bench waiting and are never called into the game?
Or why are you or they allowed to let those skills and assets be deployed at their work and school, but they are never activated at home? The truth is, family and home should get the best of everyone’s talents and skills, before work or school or anything else does.
And that’s what a true marital team is about — the husband’s job is to release the wife’s strongest assets into the world and their home with force and power. And the wife is to help unleash her husband’s best giftings and talents in the same way.
Watch the Video
Teams release and unleash the maximum potential of their team members. And you’ll be shocked when that’s happening to see how much more purpose you find in the home than outside of it.
- Wendell Berry, “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine,” What Are People For, accessed April 11, 2011, https://religioustech .org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Berry-Wendell-Feminism -the-Body-and-the-Machine.pdf.
Excerpted with permission from Take Back Your Family by Jefferson Bethke, copyright Jefferson Bethke.
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Your family was built to run as a team! Teams don’t have losers; they work together to win together. Take back your family by making calls where everyone flourishes. Come share your thoughts with us!