The art of balancing: Issues facing young women today
I undertook a small scale survey among some of my female friends in their twenties and early thirties to find out what they felt were the top three key issues facing young Christian women today. Important issues such as singleness, finding satisfying work, sexual temptation, and dating were all highlighted. These are issues that the church needs to be particularly aware of in supporting young Christian women to consider what God has in store for their lives. However, the issue that proved most popular was finding time to spend with God.
Instantly some may find that strange; finding time? We enjoy more time-saving devices than ever before; perhaps the respondents have young children? Well some did, but the majority did not. And finding time to spend with God wasn’t the only issue that suggested young women were feeling the squeeze; issues around balancing work and family, expectations of others, and balancing work and social time were also highlighted.
Getting the right balance
My survey unearthed a recurring theme: balance. In many ways young Christian women have it better than previous generations; communication is easier; there’s more choice in shops, activities and career plans. Lots of opportunities are open to us. Life is now more difficult than it has been in the past, but I would suggest that it is more complex.
And it is the balancing of these choices which makes it complex. Some weeks I feel that I have balanced my time well; then I see my to-do list and immediately feel discouraged. And what about all the things that didn’t even make the list? And there are bigger life decisions to face; if I’m a mum do I go back to work; can we afford for me not to? Now that I’m back to work how can I be involved in church? Now that I’m working and involved in church, when did I last open the Bible?
Dunja Knezevic, a twenty-six-year-old model, wrote in the Guardian newspaper in December 2008, ‘I think one of the biggest challenges women face is trying to be superwoman. Now we can have it all, we try to do it all – go to university and get your degree, develop a career, have a family, be a good wife.’ Add to this being involved in your local church and spending time with God, and you can see why balancing becomes an issue.
Carolyn Mahaney, a pastor’s wife in America, set up the Five o’clock Club – women in her family circle rise at 5am to have their quiet times before children wake up or work begins. For some this may be the solution, but for others it just provides more hours in which to cram life’s busyness, whilst making you more tired.
Different practical approaches will be helpful for different women, but here are three ideas which may help if you are struggling with this yourself, or seeking to support someone who is:
- We cannot actually have it all
While at first sight this statement seems quite depressing, I’ve actually found it quite liberating. I was born in the eighties, just in time for celebrity culture and feminism to seep into normal life. So I grew up not considering that I would ever have to choose; how to juggle my time; whether to be a manager or attend my kid’s sports days; how much time to spend with my Christian or non-Christian friends. I have to admit that finding that I can’t do everything I would like to is quite a disappointment, but it made me consider what really matters. It’s also made me realise that I don’t have a big enough view of heaven; I’m spending time trying do everything and experience everything and enjoy everything, just like the world around me, worried that I might miss out, and forgetting that this isn’t all there is. I may be able to enjoy different things in different seasons of life, but other things may have to wait beyond that; the opportunities here pale into insignificance compared to those awaiting me in heaven.
- Practise prioritising
Finding time to spend with God becomes easier when I take a step back and recognise that God has put me in my current situation for a reason. If you’re at home with young children, that’s what God has for you now – do it to the best of your ability. If you’re working full time, that’s what God has for you now – persevere at it. Put God first, remember where He’s placed you then use any time you have around those activities to do other things. Prioritising becomes less complicated when we’re keen to serve God in the situations He has currently placed us.
It also becomes easier to prioritise when I consider what God has gifted me to do. Even though I know that no-one is an expert at everything, I think sometimes I try to be. God has entrusted each of us with special gifts and abilities, which only we have in that unique combination. We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps. 139:14). I’m not trying to suggest that you shouldn’t be willing to learn, serve, give things a go and help out where needed, but God has given you special gifts that no-one else in your church has – use them. While we are all created with the chief end of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, how we best do that depends on how God has made us.
What has God uniquely equipped you to do? Why has He put you in your current situation? Since you can’t do everything, you need to learn to prioritise and in your prioritising remember to put God first.
- Life only makes sense with God
This takes us back to the original key issue; finding time with God. We’ve looked at not being able to have it all or do everything, and needing to prioritise, but the key to doing any of this is in spending time with God, which is the non-negotiable. I find that the weeks when I feel most frantic and out of control are when I haven’t spent time reading my Bible or praying. Spending time with God really helps give me perspective on life’s bigger picture.
How you make time to do this will vary for every person, whether getting up early, or praying in the car, or reading a Bible passage before the school run, but it needs to be the main priority, and without it life just doesn’t work. On this earth I can’t do everything and I need to prioritise, but God will lead and guide me in how I can best serve Him as I prioritise spending time with Him.
There are many excellent books on how to balance and prioritise your time as a Christian (I’d recommend ‘The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness’ by Tim Chester), and chatting to a woman who has been through these issues before can be really helpful too. But I know that ultimately it’s spending time in God’s word that helps give me an eternal perspective on the issues that I face. Let’s be committed to being good stewards of the gifts He has given us in the situations in which He has put us, putting our relationship with Him first.
Kathryn Kendall is a member of Grace Church, Bridgend.