Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Center of my Worth

The Center of my Worth
by Cynthia Clack

The first clue came when he refused a trip to the library, choosing to stay home and take a nap. Several meals with no appetite and complaints of a headache were the second clue. When small red bumps began to appear on his stomach there was no denying the third. Chicken pox had come to visit. He and his brother were not around for the great family chicken pox epidemic eleven years ago that left my other seven children and me down for the count. It was their turn; at least one of them. With the other quick to follow, I was sure.

In a matter of hours the focus of my time and energy changed. I had a writing deadline in the midst of the normal busyness as a wife and mother. This would have to be set aside for trips to the store to stock up on oatmeal bath and calamine lotion. The first priority was getting drinks, pampering skin, playing games to distract from the itching. Other necessities of life filled up the rest of my moments.

My heart was pulled in two directions as I instinctively cared for my sick child but I longed to enter into that writing process of organizing my thoughts, researching, editing and rewriting. My mind swirled with recent questions as I wondered why it is that when her children need her, a woman’s world comes to a stop in a way that rarely happens with a man. My husband’s agenda wasn’t changed a bit by this illness.

I entertained internal rants at the injustice and whined to myself a bit. My thoughts returned to the great question of our day: What is the purpose of my life? Earlier that week, I had struggled with feeling like I was living vicariously through my husband as he dealt with important and interesting things, with a job that mattered to the public. My own life seemed mundane in comparison as I wondered what difference I was making. I had left behind a mindset that shaped my view of God based on what the world and then the church taught me about being a woman and I have been renewing my mind by knowing God first and letting Him form me as a woman. Many times though, I felt confused as old ideas clashed with the new.

What is the worth of a woman? Songs have been written about it, books are published about it, the culture defines it one way while the church defines it another. The former holds an expectation that women be beautiful. Never mind that the media has so distorted the concept of beauty that no woman can measure up on her own.

Unfortunately, many in the church embrace the same expectation.

Having a husband and raising children is usually the standard for those in the church. It seems that no real worth is attached except through other people in a woman’s life. It has been an interesting process to watch my twenty-year old daughter wrestle with having identity and purpose without a husband and children while I am wrestling with having identity and purpose with a husband and children. Both sides determine value upon career choices. Will she pursue an education and a career that will bring her accomplishment and viable income? If so, she will have to handle the challenge of balancing work and family without error, or risk condemnation from both sides. Or will she choose to stay home and practice the vintage homemaking skills of her foremothers? Regardless, neither side gives equal recognition or pay to a woman as to her male counterparts.

Let me personalize the question. What is my worth as a woman? I am a wife, a homeschooling mother, an artist, a writer, a daughter, a friend. But those are roles. Those things, or how well I do those things, do not determine my worth. It sounds cliché to say but my worth is found in Christ alone. A simple truth that is not so easy to hold onto sometimes.

It is more identifiable to look to people, to things, to accomplishments that will measure my value. However, when I do this, I inevitably feel like I am out of balance. I try to restore balance by allotting a percentage of my time and energy to one aspect of my life, another percentage to something else, until I have depleted all my time and energy and I am left exhausted, empty and wasted.

What if I look to Jesus to measure my value? What if He were my focus? Think of it as dancing or yoga. To maintain balance, one simply stays grounded in their center. The attention is not diverted to this arm or that leg but the focus is on the center and all else flows from there.

Another way I can look at it is to imagine a drawn circle that represents my life. I am a point on that circle and all around it are other points that represent my roles in life … my husband, my children, my friends, my art. In the center is Jesus. I don’t look at anything else without looking through Jesus. My movement is required; I must adjust myself to keep Him as center as I attend to the roles in my life. Christ defines my mission, my design, my worth and everything I do abounds from Him.

Since no one else determines my worth, no one else can diminish my worth. No opinion, no judgment, no expectation can add to or take away from the value assigned to me. Believing this has the power to change how I conduct my life. It empowers me to have gourmet chicken or hot dogs for dinner, to converse with emerging voices online or read Harry Potter aloud, to write thought provoking articles or minister to an ailing child when he needs me. When all I do is for and through Jesus alone, I hold the highest value.

Cynthia Clack attributes her creative inspiration, her wonder of life and her limited time and energy to one incredible husband and nine dynamic children. Add in three dogs, three cats, various rodents that have come and gone, including a recent visit from a possum and the picture of managed chaos becomes apparent. She shares her questions and few answers, her real life and dreams and her journey in the grace, love and mercy of God at Graceful Journey.

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