By: Gabriela Yareliz
These past few days have been refreshing. I have been mounting pieces of furniture that will help add chic storage to my sunny studio. I look forward to no longer seeing the things I will store inside these pieces and to having a more put-together look, in my humble home. I am excited for a proper entrée, for one. Building furniture is soothing to me. Maybe, it’s because I grew up in a house whose furniture my mother and I built during dark power outage hurricane days in Florida, when we first arrived to the hot, muggy and delightfully weather unstable state.
I like this feeling of knowing I made something or at the very least, I built it. Sometimes, it’s painful. You screw and feel the rawness on your palm; and other times, it’s a balancing act, and you learn to hold multiple pieces at once. Law books provide great support for this. (Thank God those ridiculously expensive books are good for more than one thing). Getting more bang for my buck.
Building is also an act of creativity. Especially, when the furniture is cheap and poorly engineered, and they make the holes all weird and unaligned with the piece that needs to be screwed in.
As I am putting together my apartment, my mind often wanders to some things I have observed on social media, which is a new thing for me, as I have no personal social media except the one for my site, Modern Witnesses. If you haven’t checked out the site, please do. We interview amazing Christian women, doing amazing things in the world.
My goal is to have it be an international and diverse collection of amazing true stories and a beacon of hope and community. I want women to feel empowered to share their stories in a secular sphere.
At first, I struggled with making the site diverse. I have a diverse set of friends that I started with, but as I started cold emailing young women, I realized, more and more, that most of the women who were vocal about their faith, from what I could tell, were not women of color, and the women of color I was finding were ignoring me, altogether.
This has been pretty much resolved, as through friends of friends and chains of connections one reaches more people, but there was another theme I saw on the site, recently, that really made me not too excited.
Maybe I am just noticing this, but suddenly, I started noticing that women I had interviewed or wanted to interview were quitting their jobs. They were quitting their jobs to dedicate themselves to “full-time ministry,” which really just meant being on Instagram Live most of the day and churning out newsletters that were popping into my inbox, en masse. I saw someone’s live, and it started with, “I just quit my job, so I could spend time with you and better serve you—” which brought a huge question mark to my mind.
In my mind, true ministry is being out there in the world and having interactions with people outside of your circle. Not staying home to be on Instagram Live to become one of many Christian-for-Christians blogs.
Some women have quit their jobs for “ministry,” while others have done it to raise their children. That is a wonderful personal decision. It is also a phase of life (meaning, not permanent). It is also something not all families can afford to do, and that is a reality.
I say it is wonderful until women decide that this is the maximum of their potential and stop living as the well-rounded humans they are meant to be. The argument that one wants to raise one’s own child as why one stays home seems weak to me. I grew up in a house with two working parents, where a daycare never raised me. I was very much raised by my own parents, every step of the way. That’s as if you decide to never send your child to school because you want to “raise” your child. If the amount of time spent with a child equates the deep act of raising and parenting a child, we are missing something from the big picture. It’s fine if you have other temporary reasons for leaving your job. People have health issues, etc. Not here to judge. And clearly, we live in a society that gives women a lot of flexibility to choose (if their husband’s job or personal financial situation allows). What is right for someone’s life looks different, from family to family, but what I want to say is that staying at home should never mean chucking away your full potential. And I am not talking about any abstract potential I think certain women have– I am thinking about the potential God has for each one of us.
All of this to say, I am concerned that so many Christian women out there are selling themselves short. They are limiting their potential and choosing a comfortable “ministry” of Instagram Live for their friends, rather than the true ministry we are called to do, which is every day, in the workings of the real world with difficult people.
I ask the young women I interview to share their interview in their spheres of influence. Not for followers but because the whole point is that everyone should have a circle of non-religious friends they should be able to share their life with. True ministry occurs in organic and vulnerable relationship with others, who are not like us. Many refuse to share, or to be fair, they don’t have that secular circle to share with. This, I find, to be the most amusing part of all. It’s a work in progress. What can I say? I voice my concerns here partly to express myself and also partly to express my intention with this site and all I am learning. My opinion may be very unpopular, as I haven’t heard anyone else voice it– but that’s fine by me.
“True ministry occurs in organic and vulnerable relationship with others, who are not like us.”
Some of our deepest issues as people, who are growing spiritually, stem from not knowing our identity, dreaming too small, having a comfortable and convenient vision of what religion is and focusing on doctrine and smaller moving pieces and missing the big-picture gospel, altogether.
I have noticed Christian young women place too much emphasis on relationships and what to do with yourself while single.
There are single women doing “singleness” workshops for other women, charging almost $1000 to confused and clearly vulnerable young women— which reminds me of when Carrie Bradshaw, a single 30-something-year-old started a class on how to meet men, yet when the women realized she was single and just like them, her class was left with five people. I understand relationships are important and everyone wants love, but what happens when we spend our lives talking about how relationships should not be an idol and how to meet Christian men, 24/7? It is an idol still, nonetheless. Why do we find our value in things that can be taken from us or aren’t guaranteed to us? We have created an obsessive culture that has landed many of our own in dysfunctional and foundation-lacking relationships that end up cutting our God-given potential. And if it’s clear to us that God doesn’t want our God-given potential to be cut, then why are the things that lead to that ok and common place?
I am noticing, more and more, that women are acting out of desperation, self-centeredness and emotionalism, rather than true understanding of who God is and what He wants for us. Do we pray as hard for our characters to be transformed as we do for a man? Do we repent as hard and search our souls in the way we look for a partner– with the same urgency?
There is an issue when our spirituality leads us to filling certain seasons of our lives with giving money or attention to repetitive seminars/podcasts/emails that are all about ending our current season or what will come after our season, rather than focusing on cultivating who you are and where you are, without expectation and without agenda. And shame on those who decide to exploit this mentality for their own financial gain.
These words are not meant as criticism, they are plain concern. Maybe I am just noticing this now, because I tend to be in secular spheres and not so much in the inner Christian circle. I have been taken aback. I am seeing patterns. I genuinely thought we were past certain things as a “Christian” culture, but we are still very much steeped in a misunderstanding of what God wants to do in us and through us.
I pray women will wake up to their true purpose, which includes caring for their families and loved ones, but a purpose that also puts them out in the world, where Jesus called us to be. (We were not called to be insulated or to insulate our families in some alternative reality.) I pray that we may realize that our identity does not equate whether we are alone or accompanied. Purpose is beyond all of this noise. Someone who joins your life has a purpose, too, and should help you reach your maximum potential in true ministry and life. You should help him/her do the same.
We must learn to discern what really matters. We do it in life. Only a fool would confuse a tabloid piece for a hard news piece.
At the end of the day, life is like building furniture. Except you can’t pay for someone to assemble it for you. You can try, but then, you didn’t build it. It would be a product of someone else’s hands. Sometimes, we give too much space to the noise around us. The truth is, the only one who can help you engineer it the way it really is meant to look is God.
God doesn’t need more women’s clubs looking for single available men or more stay-at-home bloggers, in my opinion. He has a lot more dreamed up for those who dare.