I just finished this deeply thoughtful work by one of my recent favorite authors. It is both a spiritual memoir and a meditation on some of life’s most important truths. Sometimes, the sentences that strike me most in her writing are those that almost seem as if they are said in passing, or as if they are tentatively written because she is trying to understand herself and doesn’t fully know what she is trying to say. Her rich thoughts constantly give me new insight, provoke new questions, and leave me examining my thoughts and habits.
Winners write this as she begins contemplating her recent divorce, and it struck me as particularly profound:
“I was drifting out of the reach of faith, and I couldn’t even say precisely why—perhaps because my sense of myself as a Christian had become so wrapped up with my sense of myself as a wife that to question one was to question the other.” —Lauren Winner, Still
I am a wife of seven weeks. I love my husband. I love cooking and keeping our home for him. I love exploring with him on the weekends and spending a quiet Thursday night at home with him. I love being a wife. But as wonderful and fulfilling as this new vocation has been, it is not my ultimate identity and it must never be the definition of Shannon McKendrick.
As a younger, Christian girl, I was taught that marriage is right and beautiful and a good thing to desire. I was taught that being a wife is one of the greatest roles a woman can fill. In its proper context, that is all right and true and good, but I think this must be prefaced and grounded by a much more important truth: your identity as a woman is not found in your marital status.
I think Christian women ought to desire the goodness of marriage, but it can quickly become a belief that her role and worth will only be full as a wife. This belief produces restlessness and deep discontent, as I personally know. As women, we so easily believe that life will finally be full and we will feel complete and perfectly satisfied once that husband comes along. But what happens when a woman discovers she’s not always the best wife? And what happens when marriage reveals inadequacies and weaknesses that were previously unknown? Once I became a wife, there came new identities to idolize, none of them fulfilling: that of a really great wife, or a talented teacher, or a stylish Dallas resident, or a serving church member. It never ends.
Single and married women alike must understand that their identity is not in their singleness or their wifehood. It is only and ever that of a child of God, a creation of the the all-sovereign and all-powerful God of the universe, an image-bearer of the Creator. How much more worth is found as a woman who is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Singleness or marriage are both different opportunities for that transformation, and they are both good and beautiful.
Single women: don’t believe the lie that your worth and ultimate earthly fulfillment will come only upon a wedding day. Married women: don’t let your role become your identity. Single or married, we are children of God, beholding the glory of the Lord, and being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)