Although I went to college, I had no intention of pursuing a career. I dated my high-school sweetheart, and I knew even in my freshman year that I would marry this guy. My main vocational goal was to be a mommy. It was my only aspiration.
When we married at ages 21 and 20, Gary and I wanted at least three children. It never dawned on me that we might face the prospect of no kids at all. If anything, I figured we’d have nineteen like Susannah Wesley and wonder how to handle them all.
After five years of marriage, during which Gary was earning a master’s degree in theology, we decided it was time to expand our little family of two. But a year went by with no success. And then another. Finally, I went to the doctor. But a third year passed.
And then it happened—the positive pregnancy test.
We partied, we celebrated, we cheered. We ate steak. We called our families. But elation turned to agony when I miscarried. And then it happened again. And again. We had seven early pregnancy losses.
After that, we pursued adoption, but in three years’ time, three adoptions fell through.
Spiritually, I wondered if God was punishing me. Emotionally, I felt unstable, with hormones fluctuating wildly. But the greatest trauma of all was my crisis of womanhood. What was I supposed to do and be?
I had always heard that a Christian woman’s highest calling is motherhood. Where did that leave me? When I went to college, I didn’t go to prepare myself for a career. To be honest, I didn’t really believe in women having vocations.
As I write that now, it still astonishes me, as I consider how narrow my perspective was. I left no room for the apostle Paul’s statement that the unmarried state, if chosen for eternal purposes, can be a higher calling than marriage. Where would my view have left tent-making Priscilla? Or the woman in Proverbs 31 who, though a wife and mom, sold belts and real estate? Or Lydia, the seller of purple from Thyatira? Or Philip’s four virgin daughters who prophesied? I didn’t see then what I do now—that godly womanhood cuts its fabric from a varied pattern book, and its garments are not “one size fits all.”
At that point, both my spiritual mentor and my husband encouraged me to attend seminary. They recognized in me a gift for teaching that I myself couldn’t see.
And to my amazement, the money for tuition was miraculously provided. So reluctantly I enrolled in classes. But I still had serious doubts. Was I entering a man’s world? Was I really supposed to go? Did doing so suggest that I devalued motherhood?
I awoke the first day of class feeling nervous. When it came time to leave, I still had nagging doubts.
So, as I was walking through the living room on my way out the front door, I stopped. I simply couldn’t go without peace. I had to know I was making the right choice. So, I slipped to my knees in front of the couch. And I prayed (more like begged): “Lord, if this violates what you want me to do, please stop me. I just want to do what you want.”
Has God ever spoken simple words to you? He certainly answered me that day. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but words memorized years earlier that came to my mind might as well have been: “Mary has chosen what is better.”
I thought of the story behind the words. Martha was in the kitchen doing the traditional “woman” thing. She was being domestic. Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet learning theology. When kitchen-woman complained that student-woman had messed up priorities, Jesus set her straight: “Mary has chosen what is better.”
I stood up knowing exactly what I was supposed to do. I knew seminary was where God wanted me. I had no idea what I would do with my education, but I knew the step I needed to take for that day. I confess that such direct leading from God has been rare throughout my life. But that day God used Jesus’s own words to a female disciple to propel me forward.
Today, Gary and I are the adoptive parents of a grown daughter. And I teach at the same seminary where I took classes. If you had told me thirty years ago that we’d have an “only child” and I’d teach at a graduate school helping to train pastors and ministry workers, I would have laughed. Out loud. And shaken my head at you. Maybe even my finger.
Motherhood is a high and noble calling. But it is not the only calling. Or even the ultimate calling. Following Jesus Christ wherever He leads is the ultimate calling.
“Mary has chosen what is better.”