How do women do it all? (Three perspectives)

August 7, 2014

Editor’s Note: Today, we have the privilege of hearing from three busy wives and moms–with other ministries and responsibilities outside of their homes–who have banded together to answer the oft-asked question, “How do you do it all?”

Megan Hill: Are we wrong about what “all” is?

I well remember the time I confessed to a group of women: “Sometimes being a mom is boring.”

You could have cut the resulting silence with a pie server.   

I love my kids. Their stories, their questions, their Lego creations.  I take seriously my responsibility to care for them as my children and as my fellow human-beings. My roles as wife and mother rightly have high priority in my life (Titus 2:3-5).

But if, while I am stirring the macaroni and cheese, my mind turns instead to the wonder of the incarnation or the problem of systemic racism or the challenge of writing a fresh metaphor, is that wrong?

The question of doing (or having) it all was resurrected for my generation by Anne-Marie Slaughter in her July/August 2012 cover article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Her piece was followed by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a slightly different perspective on the same situation. For Slaughter and Sandberg and many women my age, “doing it all” means being able to find success and fulfillment in a wide range of simultaneous roles: wife, mother, employee or employer, creator, friend, citizen, volunteer.

Many conservative Christians take issue with Slaughter and Sandberg. They would say that godly women should define “doing it all” as being able to find success and fulfillment in a smaller number of simultaneous roles: wife and mother.

But whether women define “doing it all” with a list of a hundred roles or by reducing that to one or two roles, we are wrong about what “all” is.

Yes, being a wife and mother is my highest earthly privilege; my conduct in those roles even influences what other people think of my God (Titus 2:5, I Pet. 3:1-2, Eph. 5:22-33). I can also take satisfaction in work done well.

But I am not dedicated finally and completely to being a wife or a mother or a writer. In the words of the Heidelberg Catechism: “I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”

If being a peanut-butter-sandwich-making and laundry-folding mom is sometimes boring, it’s because those tasks are not intended to be ultimate. I do them heartily, yes, but I do them as for the Lord (Col. 3:23). I take every thought captive—whether thoughts about mac ‘n cheese or thoughts about global poverty—to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) And I bring my children up in the way of the Lord, submitting to my husband as is fitting in the Lord (Eph. 5:4, Col. 3:18). I pour water and cook dinner and buy clothes and, yes, write articles for my Jesus (Matt. 25:40).

In the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn: “Thou, O Christ, are all I want; more than all in thee I find.” How do I do it all? By daily remembering that “all” is not to be found in the sum of my different roles. It is found only in the one all-consuming and all-worthy work of a lifetime: “to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:21)

Gloria Furman: Whose do we think we are?

It’s easy to look at your schedule, family, church, work, interests, and yourself and conclude: God has given me roles, tasks, circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses that compete with each other. How do you do it all?

To answer the “how” we need to know what we mean when we say “it” or “all,” as Megan mentioned. But we also need to know the “who” and “whose.” We don’t need to dwell on our gifts, opportunities, personalities, passions, and strength-finders nearly as much as we need to know and love the God who has revealed himself to us in his Word. Who is this God from whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Rom. 11:36)? We must know whose we are.

God is triune, and God is one. There is no disunity in the eternal council of the Godhead. God ordains, designs, calls, equips, strengthens, holds us accountable, and rewards us. The Spirit’s distribution of spiritual gifts to Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:11, Heb. 2:4) doesn’t collide with the Father appointing us to his service (1 Tim. 1:12). The finitude and weaknesses that God has designed for us don’t thwart Christ’s grace and power but are strategic in their display (2 Cor. 12:9).

We belong to God by creation and by redemption. “You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God’s sovereign purpose and calling cannot, by definition, conflict. We can rest easy when we look to the Good Shepherd for his loving, capable, coherent leadership.

I do not contend with these truths, but sometimes my feelings don’t line up. Do you ever feel like you would be happier if God had used a different stitch when he knit you together in your mother’s womb? Or if he would call off one of your callings?

As one who struggles with thinking the grass is greener for other sheep, it helps to ask: What is it to me that Jesus wills this or that for someone else when according to his wisdom he is pleased to call each of us to follow him (John 21:22)? With our gaze fixed on Jesus (even in the valley of the shadow of death) we can see with eyes of faith that we’ll never look back on our lives and conclude, “I was robbed.”

While we’re on the subject of other sheep and their callings, our distinctly Christian worldview must also take into account the reality that union with Christ makes us members of one another. How do y’all (the church) do all God has given youse guys to do? But that’s another question for another day.

So, we remember the nature of the one, triune God who does all things for his glory, in whom there is no conflict of interest. His grace frees us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness because he will give us everything we need to do that which he calls us to do. It’s that simple. We are free, indeed.

Aimee Byrd: Loving the simplicity of faithfulness

Well, you know what they say: The first step is admitting you have a problem. My name is Aimee Byrd and I think that I can do it all. With a child in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary, my life often feels like the American Ninja Warrior par course. I’m trying to make it to the buzzer at the end of a day of packing lunches, writing deadlines, and housewife-miracle-working, without falling in the water and being disqualified.

I used to think this whole parenting thing would become less busy once the kids were out of diapers and in school. But now I’m dealing with three different social circles, ball teams, school projects, and rites of passage. They all seem to involve much driving. Every season of life comes with its new batch of challenges. You may have different vocations than me, but we all have obstacles that hinder us from the mountain of accomplishment and that blessed buzzer.

So often we women expect to take on all our ambitions and responsibilities at once, like the freshly married couple who presumes they’ll move into a house much lovelier than their parents’. But we just can’t do it all. In God’s providence and his perfect timing, we strive to please him where we are called.

It’s really as simple as that. Just keep faithfully serving where we are called in good stewardship. But no one likes that answer. It usually takes humility, stress, and good old-fashioned grit. I take my opportunities when I get them, and I plod along to the end. Remember, the tortoise won the race. We have a race that we are in that is called the Christian life. The author of Hebrews encourages us to run with focus and endurance (Heb. 12:1-2). For most of us, it’s going to be a while before we reach our reward.

Building on athletic metaphors, an exhortation just a few verses later alludes again to Grecian Olympic games: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb. 12:12). Basically, get back up! You will fall in the water. But our Savior has already run ahead, and he will see us to the end.

No, I do not run the world. But my sinful default is to get caught up in the lie that I do. Thankfully, I am set back on course at the beginning of every week when all God’s people are called to worship the One who does. This covenant renewal ceremony reminds us that we are receivers of all God’s blessings in Christ, who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3b). Here we are given a glimpse of what is to come, our great reward. We are in a sense recalibrated as God delivers his Word and sacraments by his ministers, “doing it all” as we worship. We are then sent back out into the race with a benediction, confident that since we are in Christ, he will bless all of our efforts.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24