Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye - Pt 7

Chapter 8 - Out of Her Earnings

I have to confess that as a woman who is single way past the time when I thought I would be, I have had moments of career confusion. I worked hard at university, completed my Honours and was subsequently offered a Ph.D scholarship. At the time I declined, because I was happy with what I had accomplished so far, wasn’t sure that I wanted to move into that level of academia and I guess I thought I wouldn’t be needing a Ph.D in Ecology. Finding myself years later still in the full-time work force I occasionally look back and ask myself “if I’d known then that I would still be single now would I have done it?”. Obviously I can’t answer that question from where I am, but it does point to the difficulties of making choices about an uncertain future.

I didn’t do that Ph.D but instead I worked in research in a position that meant I was regularly away on field trips for three weeks at a time collecting zoological data. I had plenty of wild adventures. I saw places and creatures many people will never see, got caught in tropical thunderstorms and drove 4WDs half sub-merged through flooded rivers, marveled at tiny marsupial pouch-young, had encounters with the world’s deadliest snakes (not to mention bird-eating spiders) and so on and so on. I also put up posters in the local backpackers and took whoever volunteered along on these field trips with me. More times than I can remember that was just one guy. I never found myself in any situation of real compromise (by God’s grace you can hold to standards of purity that are beyond the circumstances you find yourself in) but everything about that job held some kind of risk, took me away from any weekly commitments (I was back on weekends but missed mid-week bible studies and beach volleyball and everything else), in the end was actually very wearying and was basically unsustainable for the long term. So, now I have a job that is mind-numbingly boring and doesn’t pay very well. I never dreamed I’d end up in an office in the country’s largest city. But the benefits of this one are the time and energy I have for other things (and the fact that I stay in town!). I think what I need to do next is aim for a job somewhere in between the two.

All that to simply share my experience of trying to apply wisdom (though not everything was done with much forethought), decide what I want to "do", weigh the trade-offs, think about the general life-encroachment and the other opportunities my job allows for eternal investments. It’s not easy, I don’t think I have always made the right decision and I am by no means sure that I am where I should stay.

I appreciated that Carolyn said there are no cookie-cutter answers on this one and that we will need to make our decisions in wisdom. This is an area which I think is more difficult for single women that for single men and friends in ministry have confirmed to me that single women struggle more with the thought of putting long-term plans in place. I did laugh at Carolyn’s response to being told that single people shouldn’t tie themselves down with a home, like we might need to flee somewhere in the middle of the night. But underneath the laugh I do personally regret the times in the past that I considered buying a home and didn’t (as we probably all do now that the housing market has gone crazy!). And there are other times when I have felt a kind of pervading low-grade stress about my financial situation for the future. A national questionnaire (in America) conducted in 1988 ranked finances as the second biggest frustration for single people* (I found that quite surprising), so if it’s an area that is gnawing away at us somewhere it is a good idea to take some time to think and pray it through and do what we can to put some strategies in place.

There was much in this chapter that will apply to each of us differently, depending on our particular situation. I appreciated that it chapter was balanced and practical (though I struggled to hold all the different strands together at times) and attempted to get us thinking about decisions and provide guidelines without being overly directive. And I appreciated the portions that emphasized our eternal investments, both with our money and our time. This is what really counts.

If you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious about time lost, opportunities not taken, your current financial situation or where to go next, I’ll leave you with this quote from Amy's Humble Musings:
... all women should aspire to present their bodies a living sacrifice to the Lord. God is glorified in us when we are satisfied with His will for our lives. This is why some marry, some stay single, some have children, and some are barren. Glorify God in your present circumstance, the one you are in right now ...
Here are Carolyn's discussion questions on this chapter, and I think one of the most helpful things to do would be to just ask yourself each of these:

  • If you're currently working, what expectations do you face from your boss and colleagues about your job? How do you weigh those against scriptural priorities?
  • Are you in the habit of getting counsel on major job decisions? If not, why not?
  • How's your heart at work? Are you in any compromising relationships? If so, who knows about it? What are you doing to avoid sin?
  • Do you have a Titus 2-style relationship in your life? If not, is there anyone you could you pray about asking to serve you in this way?
  • What does your checkbook say about you? What should you change?
  • Where are you consuming "seed" that you should be investing into the kingdom, instead?

  • Further reading

    A Woman's HIghest Calling. This is the blog post I quoted from above. It's worth reading (and is especially interesting given that it is written by a mother of six children).

    Cash Values from Matthias Media. This is a great bible study to work through to aid in thinking through your finances.

    Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. The title says it all.

    *These survey results are referred to in an article called Christian Singles: Tuning In and Tuning Up, which I found in a random internet search and which was a useful thing to read. The questionnaire results originally come from the Singles Ministry Handbook by Douglas Fagerstrom.

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