Ever since I had Anna (more on her to come) I have had a lot more time to read than I anticipated thanks to the kindle app on my phone; I read while I feed her. So since she joined us, I’ve blasted through about ten books. (She’s 3 months old.) One of these books was recommended by my sister — March by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a book that tells the story of the father in Little Women. In the book, he serves as a chaplain during the Civil War. I won’t give too much away about it, because you should read it too, but I arrived at book club ready to talk about what I didn’t like about the book. And there were a few things — I didn’t really love the book when I had finished it. But in talking about it, layers of meaning began to be revealed and I realized this was a powerful book with an unusual message.
March talks obliquely about vocation, and the reader is left wondering whether the decisions and choices March made were the right or best ones. Consequently, the book made me think in a new way about my own vocation — motherhood — which is one that has honestly been hard at times for me to accept. I have always liked being a mom, and deep down I have always enjoyed staying home and being a full time homemaker, but I’ll admit I fell prey to “just a mom” syndrome and felt embarrassed that I wasn’t “doing more” with myself, that I was just wasting years at home with small children while I waited for my real life to resume. Reading this book forced me to look at my vocation more honestly and directly, and to be able to see it with the true value that it has. (Note: it has intrinsic value both for what it is, and also because God has called me to it.)
It’s no secret, since I wrote about it several times when Will was a baby, that I struggled a lot with letting go of my career. I spent a long, long time clinging to this idea that I absolutely had to resume my career by a certain deadline, come hell or high water, because if I didn’t — then what? What if I just let go and stopped trying to plan out the future? What if I just … trusted? The idea terrified me, frankly, because I was afraid that if I didn’t I would miss the boat. What boat that was, I don’t know, but I have always hated the feeling of being untethered and that is what I felt in my first few years of motherhood. I felt untethered.
But I’m learning to let that go. Just before I read March I attended a forum at my church on women and vocation. One piece of advice the speaker offered? “Do what’s in front of you.” This was given in response to the question of discerning God’s will for your life. Start by looking at what’s in front of you. And right now, God has placed me here in my home. I realized that my stubborn determination to plan out my future career wasn’t leaving room for anything else. It certainly wasn’t leaving room for God, and I definitely wasn’t following my calling. (I do believe that I am called right now to be a SAHM [though I really hate that title].)
I will talk more about this later, I’m sure, but I did a lot of thinking last month after attending the forum and reading this book. It was a humbling few weeks as I considered how much I was struggling needlessly against the path God had placed me on, but it was also so liberating. Forgive the cliche, but I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and the worry and anxiety I had been carrying around for so long began to dissipate at last.
So thanks, Geraldine Brooks, for giving me the opportunity to think honestly about my vocation and to finally (finally) stop feeling like it’s not good enough. Because of that, I can finally (finally) stop living in fear of the future.