Is being a wife and mother truly woman's "highest calling"? Does a single woman have all the pieces for glorifying God as a woman? What role should parents play in a single woman's life when she's 30 rather than 18? How should a single woman think about her role in family, church, community, business, and culture? Anna Sofia and Elizabeth discuss their journey of theological growth from teenaged singles to singles in their thirties, and the ways they're working through these questions now.

Okay, well welcome you all. It's really good to have you all here today. I feel like we're hosting a talk show or something. So just to give you a quick overview of what we're going to try to do right now. My sister and I, Elizabeth, are going to do a 35 minute talk, going over some things very, very quickly.

And then we're going to have Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Beeky come up here and join us. We're going to try to do some Q&A. So while we talk, be thinking of questions, be storing them up, writing them down, so that when these ladies come up, we can pummel them.

So let's start with prayer real quick here. Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for all of the teaching that we have been privileged to hear so far, all the ways that you have blessed us through the great men who have been speaking. Thank you for every single young lady in this room. Thank you for your workmanship, which you've created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath been ordained, that we should walk in them before the foundations of the earth.

And thank you for your perfect time in the way that you ordained certain works for certain times. Thank you for the gift of marriage and of singleness. Thank you that you are a father who gives good gifts to your children and that we can trust you with our futures and every season of our lives. Please be with Elizabeth and me today as we seek to talk to these ladies a little bit about your word. Please be with all of us.

Please help my sister and I to speak your words and not ours. And if we speak words that are just ours, please don't let anybody hear those. And thank you for being with us today. Amen. Okay, well, we will introduce ourselves briefly.

I'm Anna Botkin. This is my sister Elizabeth. We are 33 and 35. It's gonna be just full disclosure. Some of you may know us by a book that we wrote 15 years ago called So Much More, where we attempted to really explain what single young womanhood was about.

And in the 15 years since then, we've learned and grown, thankfully, and have learned that it was about a lot more things than we thought. 15 more years of being involved in a local church, of being involved in local community service, of walking with our siblings who have gotten married and had kids and were getting to be aunties, working with multiple family businesses, We've done a lot in the last 15 years. But most of all, 15 years of walking with the Lord, having him walk alongside us, spending more time in the study of his word has really deepened our understanding of these issues. And I tell you, there's nothing like an unexpected 15-year extension of singleness to really force you to grapple with womanhood and God's plan for your life. And, because, you know, if I had married when I thought I was going to at about 20, 22, I would not have to ask the questions that I'm asking now.

I think that questions about what I was going to do with my life would have been answered by the first child, and the second child, and the third child. But as it is, I'm up here now really trying to grapple with these things. And that's a privilege, and that's something that I'm grateful for. And there's a lot to grapple with today. There's a lot of young ladies who have been taught to expect a very particular thing, you know, by the time they hit 20, that didn't happen.

And a lot of us have grown up hearing phrases like marriage and motherhood are a woman's highest calling, we've read books or seen books on biblical womanhood that were, you know, presenting motherhood and wifehood as what biblical womanhood means and what it's all about. And it can be very difficult when you hit 35 and you realize that you don't fit into your own worldview. And there's a lot of young ladies who are kind of hitting that point and are wondering if maybe they're second best in God's kingdom. And they're having to grapple with, so what do I do now? Do I keep going on the path that I was on?

Do I, if it's not working or doesn't seem to be working, do I revert to the world's approach to womanhood? You know, I don't want to become a feminist. I don't want to become so professional or independent that I'm going to seem less marriageable. How do I... Basically, how do I move forward from here?

It's a lot different when you're in your 20s and 30s than when you're in your teens. And there's a lot of new decisions that you have to grapple with. And I think a lot of us may be missing pieces that make single womanhood, and actually womanhood in general, makes sense. And so, what we're going to hope to do today is all grapple together with some of these things and go through some of the core principles of Christianity and womanhood that allow us to live fully and fruitfully for Christ in every season of our lives, whether single or married or widowed or barren. God's word has so much for us, and we're gonna try to dig into that.

So we'll be going through some of those principles, and then also offering some encouragements at the end. But then after that, we'll bring up these ladies up here, and we will do some questions. Okay. So good morning y'all. Can you all hear me?

No? Okay. How about now? So we're gonna go through seven or eight things that affect how we all think about being a single woman and that also affect how we make decisions as single women. And then we're also going to give some personal encouragements.

So, the first point, the first truth that I think every single woman needs to grasp and understand is godly womanhood is bigger than, it is about more than marriage and children. Because like Anna was saying a minute ago, so much of the teaching about biblical womanhood does center around marriage and raising children, because that is a very big part of it for a lot of women. But it is not actually all that there is, and so if our idea of biblical womanhood primarily involves marriage, and our view of marriage primarily is just about the husband, the children, and the physical house that you're a homemaker in, this is going to create a major crisis of identity if you find yourself single, or if you find yourself barren, or if you find yourself widowed, or abandoned by your husband, or even potentially when your children grow up and leave. This is an interesting thing. While Anna and I are over here in our corner talking to lots of singles about some of their crises of identity, I've talked to a lot of pastors' wives who've told us that one of the big demographics in their churches that are experiencing a crisis of identity is women whose children have grown and gone.

And these women are suddenly faced with, oh, now I have maybe 20, maybe 30 more years of life as a woman, but I don't know what it's supposed to be about because everything I was was sunk into my children. Now I don't even know who I am. I don't even know what I care about, or what my interests are, or what I'm good at." And so now they're actually, some of them, finding themselves with very similar things to grapple with that we are. And this is one reason why I think it's important for us to try to lay a strong foundation of what is the whole picture of womanhood as, you know, as early as we can. It's interesting how this idea of womanhood being primarily marriage and domesticity focused doesn't actually account for a lot of the heroines in the Bible that God used very powerfully in his kingdom.

Single women like Mary and Martha, or women like Esther who technically, yes, was married but it was not anything like the picture of marriage that most of us wanted to prepare for. Or barren women like Sarah and Hannah. Or women like Anna, who got married, was married for a very short time, then widowed, and then spends this whole decade and decade and decade serving the Lord in the temple. And it doesn't account for a lot of the ways that God uses women in the Bible outside of, or in addition to, raising their children and helping their husbands. So one passage that was really kind of a box breaker for Anna and me was when we were digging into 1 Timothy 5 verses 9 and 10 and Paul is talking about what makes a widow worthy of church support.

And he doesn't just say, if she has been a faithful wife, and a good mom, and has been a good homemaker. He actually says, if she has been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works, if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, has devoted herself to every good work. And that actually is a lot bigger than the vision of marriage that a lot of single women I know have been preparing for. And, um, so you see this woman is, she's serving husband and children, but she's serving a lot of other people, even beyond them. Her ministry did not start, and it did not end, with biological family members inside a physical house.

She has a role in Christ's household, a role as a part of that family that is also a big part of her identity. And then we also look at people like the Proverbs 31 woman who is also clearly looking very well to the ways of her household. But we also see her being engaged in business transactions and agriculture and charitable endeavors to people outside the home. She's looking after the poor and the needy, and then we see examples of married women like Priscilla. And even though I am sure that Priscilla was a great homemaker, I'm sure she packed a quill of great lunches, I'm sure she kept his toka well-pressed and all that sort of thing.

But what's really interesting to me is that the only pictures that Scripture actually gives us, the only snapshots it gives us of her married life are, She and her husband are working together in their business making tents, they are planting churches together, and they are discipling young converts together. And that's the record that God left for us. And so I think one thing that we see when we look at how God uses married and single women throughout the history of the church and throughout Scripture is there is a continuity in women's purpose that transcends life season, even as there's also variation between seasons, like a married woman's focus of how much time she gives the church versus her children. You know, it's gonna vary depending on things like the age of the children and things like that, but the point is basically God doesn't actually... When He introduces women in Scripture, He does...

And as He describes her throughout Scripture, she's not just a wife and a mother. Women are also image bearers. They're also dominion takers. They are also Christ's sisters. They are co-heirs.

They are members of the body, and they have purposes that exist before marriage in all of these areas. These purposes exist before marriage, during marriage, after marriage, after children are grown. We see married women engaging in business, ministry, and church planting. We see in Scripture single women like Mary and Martha and Mary and Shalom's daughters showing hospitality, engaging in ministry, even doing things like wall building. We see elderly widows nursing children and housing profits.

We see women in every season helping plant and foster the early church, helping to build up and support the saints, and loving and nurturing the poor and needy, and investing in children. So basically, these women are about the same essential things, whether married or single. Relationships, discipleship, service, meeting needs, teaming up with others to spread the Gospel, nurturing physical and spiritual children. And so one thing this means is that the same training that would prepare a woman to be an amazing wife and mother is actually the exact same training that would prepare her to be an amazing single woman, or an amazing widow, or an amazing empty nester. But another thing it means is that marriage and motherhood are only one context in which a woman lives out her created purpose as a co-heir and a dominion taker and part of Christ's household.

It's just one context. We actually have all of the pieces right now to be living it out in other contexts. There's nothing that any of us are waiting on to be able to live the whole, you know, all of the actual essential purposes as a woman. Okay. Yeah.

Okay. So here would be another important principle that I think can be missing in our understanding and which I think should make a big difference in how we use these years and that is that God makes a distinction between the single woman and the married woman when it comes to her responsibilities and commitments. And this is something that I wish we had understood better when we were writing our book so much more. Because in our book so much more, we tried to develop a theology of single young womanhood, mostly by drawing from passages for married women. And there's a sense in which you kind of have to do that because so many of the passages in the Bible about women are about married women.

So there's, yeah, there's some degree where that is okay, but I think we actually went a little bit too far with that in the way that we prescribed a kind of focus on helping your dad, on supporting your physical family, and even on managing your home. And I think that there's a sense in which those things are all great things that are going to be part of a woman, a young woman's life, but there's also a sense in which we went too far with that. And we missed, we were not being careful about this very important distinction that Paul makes when he says in 1st Corinthians 7 34, there is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit. But she who is married carries about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

And it's describing here, I believe, a kind of logistical freedom and a flexibility that single women have that married women just do not have. Practically they just don't have it. And obviously it's not saying that one is better than the other, it's just pointing out a fact. A single woman is going to have fewer distractions. I mean, one thing that we have learned by having sisters-in-law that we were very close to and who we help around the house and who we will often go over and help with the kids, Their lives are full of wonderful, beautiful distractions.

Distractions that we're hoping for someday. We're not trying to put those down. But the fact is we have more flexibility and the Lord has a purpose and a plan for that. That's something that he has built into the single season that we should really seek to understand and embrace. But the thing is, if we're clinging to a lifestyle that has all the responsibilities of a married woman, a married woman who is committed covenantally to managing a household with a man, if we're trying to basically live that out in our own life, we're not going to be making the most of this very special, very unique season of time to say, like, pour into the church or invest in our studies of theology and the word.

So one thing that Elizabeth and I are trying to do during this season is really deepen our understanding of Scripture. And obviously every woman Must be doing that in every season, but Elizabeth is studying Greek right now. I don't think my sister-in-law Nadia could do that right now And I I just took a I audited a hermeneutics course with PRTS and that was that was really that was a blessing Probably won't be able to do this later. We also have time to hone our gifts and get involved in local outreach and ministry. Well, we'll talk a little bit more about those things later, but basically the really exciting thing is, and Elizabeth kind of already touched on this, God's vision for womanhood does not look like a snapshot of one season of a woman's life, where she's pregnant in her kitchen, surrounded by her little kids, and she's making lunch for her husband, or ironing his toga, or whatever the case may be.

You know, God talks about married women and single women and barren women and widows very differently. And he gives different prescriptions for these different seasons. And this is good news both for the single woman who's wondering, you know, who might be tempted to wonder, when is my life going to begin? And for the empty nester who's tempted to wonder, where did my life go? And when we look at all the things that the women in the Bible are doing, it can be tempting to wonder how is a woman ever going to fit all of that stuff into one lifetime?

And how can a woman who's changing diapers also be doing all the things that the proper 31 woman is doing? And the fact is, God gives different seasons to be able to maximize a woman's work in different ways. And so we can embrace that and make the most of that. All right, so here's the third principle. The house is not the only arena in which women can serve God, and God doesn't limit women's fear of activity and ministry to a physical dwelling.

And I think this is a really important thing for us to try to understand, because a lot of us have benefited greatly from being raised by mothers who did a very brave and sacrificial thing back in probably the 80s when there was this, people call it the stay-at-home mom movement, but basically there were a lot of women who are trying to go back to the Bible and understand what it says about a married woman's priorities. And so a lot of women were leaving the workforce and focusing on their homes and families. But for some of these women, as they're swinging away from the more workforce-based model, their focus became actually centered on a physical house, rather than a household, and mostly like the souls of the people in the household. And it's interesting how that then trickles down often to single women who don't even have the same level of responsibility for that household But if they start thinking there's something especially holy about a physical house And so as a single woman there's like double spiritual kudos for a thing that you do inside a physical house versus maybe outside the physical house. That can do kind of interesting things to our concept of ministry.

So when we look at Titus 2.5 or versus like 1 Timothy 5.4 and they talk about women being keepers and managers of their homes. They are talking about a wife's responsibilities to oversee and manage and steward the important things that are actually part of this household, the souls, the resources. It's not primarily about how well she's cleaning or decorating a physical house, or even having just an entirely domestic work focus. And honestly, if they were, the Proverbs 31 would be a terrible example. But Scripture also shows us believers, both men and women, doing God's work in the marketplace and under palm trees, on the wall, in foreign palaces, in prisons, in caves, at public wells, in the field.

And we see women following Jesus, we see women delivering epistles, we see women trading with merchants and serving in the temple, and generally doing the Lord's work and being his ambassadors all over the place. And so We can be very sure that all of these biblical heroines, the married ones in particular, were not neglecting their responsibilities to their households. But even there, the location was not the point. The work was the point. And so, I think especially if you're a single woman who doesn't have that same level of responsibility to husband and children, we have to be really careful that we don't use a physical location as an excuse or like a buffer zone to keep us from having to do the hard or scary work that the Proverbs 31 woman was doing or that the worthy widow was supposed to have done.

We can't be too holy inside our houses to be actually getting out there to figure out who the poor and needy are, or actually getting out there caring for souls, or actually getting out there taking dominion of the earth. Because let's be honest, it is so much easier to be at home than it is to make disciples at home. It is so much easier to clean and decorate a house than it is to evangelize. And if we're letting our desire to do just, like have a perfectly decorated house, keep us from getting out there and meeting strangers, caring for the widow and the orphan, or making Proverbs 31-type economic contributions, or any of the other duties of the Christian life, we have missed the point of what the home is all about to begin with. And so another point is, if you're a single woman and you don't have a home of your own, and you feel like your home or your work there is less than somehow because it's not your own home, or you don't have the freedom to do certain things in your parents' home or whatever, just understand that God's biggest priority isn't whether what we are doing is happening inside a physical house that we own or that our parents own.

We can do the work that God wants us to do as women, whether that's caring for souls or nurturing children or reaching out to the poor and the needy or showing hospitality or feeding people food. You can do those things anywhere. You can do it in your car. You can do it at the park. You can do it at this young mom's house where you bring her a meal.

You can be doing these things all over the place. Okay, so here's another principle that I think should really be a comfort to those of us who were single, and that is that even though we are not married in the sense that we would like to be someday, we are part of a marriage, and that is the marriage between Christ and His Church. And so we need to stop and ask ourselves, how much are we thinking about this marriage? How much do we think about what it means that we are members of a body who is married to Christ and that there's things that we can be doing with and for that body? And So think about it this way, I think all of us have longings for the emotional and spiritual support of a relationship.

You know, someone that we can love and be loved by, be accountable to, talk to, be supported by and support. I think we're all longing for little ones to nurture a family in a household of our own partnership in the work of the gospel You know someone people that we can partnership in the work of the gospel a place where we can have Hospitality bring people in make food for people and and guess what All of that is in the body of Christ. We can be doing all of that right now with the body of Christ. And when we think about our identity and our status, say, as single women. Our context within the church is one of the first things that we should think of, even more than, you know, our identity as singles or even our identity as members of a physical family.

We are part of the household of God. This is something that Dr. Beekie talked about, and I really appreciated that. This is something, this is an awareness that has really grown in my life, and I really wish that we had emphasized this more in our book so much more, but we did not have a lot of experience in churches. We were in a lot of churches growing up, we were moving around so much we didn't really get the experience of knowing what it felt like to be part of a body and to really be giving and taking the way a body is supposed to.

And so when I thought about my identity, I thought of it much more in the context of my physical family. But that has changed. And now I think of it much more in the context of my church family and the body that I'm in. And there is so much to be done in that body. I'm just going to read through a list of women in the New Testament that were very actively involved.

So Mary, it says, who worked hard for you. Priscilla, my fellow worker in Christ Jesus. Lydia, a disciple and benefactor of Paul. Dorcas, who was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, but she continually did. Eudia and Syntyche, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers.

Phoebe, a servant of the church, a patron of many and of myself as well. Philip's daughters who prophesied. Nymphah, who had a church in her house, and then of course we've got Mary and Martha, who were two single women living in what was called Martha's house, and who were hosting gatherings and organizing large feasts, and who were very, very actively involved with Christ and his disciples doing things all over the place. And you know, notice that we don't see these women exercising authority over men in the church or teaching in the meeting of the church, but at the same time they did a lot more than just keep silent during the services. And you know they were evangelizing, making disciples, ministering, they were doing all kinds of things, but it was it was all in the context of a church.

And I've heard girls say, You know, girls who still kind of feel like their main, their main sort of field of operations is their physical family. There's just not much to do here. And it's true. And that is why the Lord wants us to think in terms of being in a much larger family than our physical family. And as a single, there's a lot of things that I've discovered that my church needs from me.

Okay, I'll just throw out real quick, one thing that I have heard singles say is, I don't see how I fit into this church. You know, I'm single, most of the people in this church are married, most of the ministry in this church is geared towards married couples, most of the sermons seem to be aimed at married people. I feel Like a loner, I don't really know how I fit in or what I do. And essentially, that is like saying, how does the body have any need of me? And that would be like the nose saying, there's only one of me on this face.

How do I help this face? If I was an ear, I would be in good company because there's another ear. If I was an eye, I would be in good company because there's another eye. But because there's only one of me, how do I have anything to offer this space? And that's ridiculous.

And as single women, we do have something very special to offer the body, even if there's only one or two of us. And thankfully, my church has made singles very welcome and is very open to the ways that we can serve. But here's just a few things that Elizabeth and I have figured out to do in our church. There are lots of children and young girls who need older friends and just people to walk alongside them and love them and talk to them. There are moms, yeah, married.

Most of my friends are married with kids, and they actually need friends who are not exactly in the same season as they are, but they need older women friends, but they also really benefit, they have told us, from single friends who are not in the throes of all the diapers and the dishes and everything, who can talk to them about some of the things that we're doing. And they've told us before they really appreciate hearing about what we're reading or hearing about what we're doing because when they just talk to the other young moms it's just, you know, what are you making this week? What have you learned about food allergies? And all of that is important but they can also appreciate talking to women who are in a different season. There's also a lot of needs for logistical help and organization and just general administration, and I'm sure that every church has those needs.

Elizabeth in particular has helped put on a lot of the church events and just coordinate all of the moving parts for those and it's a big job. One thing that I am really passionate about is being kind of like a scout for my church in the local community because there are very few like most of the people in the church are married and are very busy and nobody has time to go to the committee meetings and to go to these local events and meet these people and find out what's you know going on in the community but I'm actually on my local Chamber of Commerce and you're your director I'm a jury I'm a director on my local Chamber of Commerce and Elizabeth and I are both on a committee for Christmas event that the Chamber of Commerce puts on every year we have time for this Nobody else does you know and we can keep up with the events that are coming up in the community opportunities for people in the church to go and help out with things. I found out that there is a widow's breakfast that happens in the county. I need to follow up with that and figure out who goes to that and who organizes that.

There's also pastor's breakfast. There's all kinds of cool things going on in your community. And most people, well, I should say, a lot of people are too busy to get out there and just do the work of finding what's going on. But that's something that singles can do. And that's something that I'm trying to do.

Let's see. So all that to say, a single is a very important member of a church and has a lot to offer and also has a lot to gain. The way that we are supposed to use our gifts and develop our gifts is within the context of the local body. And so, as we're trying to figure out what we should do and what we're gifted to do, if we're not doing that in the context of a church, I don't think we're gonna figure that out very well. Yeah.

Okay, so the next point, and this one is on the other side of the coin, We need to understand, as single women, that we are called and gifted and used by God as individuals, not just as part of a family and not just as part of a marriage. Because as important as our contexts are in other broader relational entities, we are actually individual souls. God does see us as individual souls, and He buys us as individuals with His Son's precious blood. He grafts us into Christ's family as individuals. He gives us spiritual gifts for the building up of the body as individuals.

It's not like He'll just give, I'm giving the Brown family the gift of such-and-such. He gives individual Christians these gifts. He says that He calls us to good works for us to walk in. He prepared for us beforehand for us to walk in. That's as individuals.

He tests us and sanctifies us and refines us as individuals. He praises us as individuals. He doesn't just say, way to go such and such family. He says, way to go, you good and faithful servant. And we also answer to God, even women, we answer to God for the moral decisions we make as individuals.

And even people like Sephira, some would say, but she was submitting to her husband, he was the one who made the bad decision. But God required them both to answer for their choices that they made individually. And so I think those of us who have a high view of marriage and family and we reject things like radical autonomy, we can sometimes fall into the opposite ditch of complete collectivism and not understanding how much God actually uses believers as individuals, including women. And it's really interesting when you look at how God deals with women in Scripture, how often He's giving personal, individual directions and callings to women, even married women, like Mary, Hannah, Deborah, Samson's mother, Hulda, Anna, Philip's daughters, and it goes on and on. And it's also interesting that some of these women are married women and the things he's having them do are not directly tied to what their husbands are doing.

So we have to bear this in mind and add it into the broader context of also what Anna was talking about about, well actually you're gonna be talking about accountability in a little bit, but, you know. And so these things should really change how we think about being a single woman, and how much God could use us individually during this season. The importance of the corporate bodies that God puts us in, and the fellowship there, and the accountability there. My point is just God made you, and He bought you, and He has things He wants you to do, works that He prepared beforehand for you to walk in, and he knows what those are for when you are single, when you are married, if you ever get married. So are we seeking him, for him to show us what those works are so we can be doing them?

Okay, so here is another principle that I also wish that we had developed. This one a little bit better in our book, but it is that parental authority does change as we age and mature. And this is something that Mr. Brown talked about a little bit this morning, but people often ask me, you know, what does living in your parents' home under the authority of your parents look like when you're 35? And I would just, well, the short answer is it looks different than when you're 12.

Like it really does. And one, I think one problem that at least I have encountered and that I think we contributed to is in order to correct a culture of disregard for authority and especially parental authority and a kind of hands-off parenting that has been a huge, well and still is, a huge problem in our country, in our culture. There has been a very strong emphasis on a parent's authority and involvement, just you know the fact of it and how important it is without a whole lot of fleshing out of the limitations of that authority, the purpose of that authority, and some of the details on how that involvement should change with adulthood. Like so many of the books on parenting are aimed at training a seven-year-old or an eight-year-old. I haven't heard a lot of teaching on what about a 20-year-old.

What does parental involvement look like? Or a 35-year-old who's still living with you, what does that look like? And I know that in our book, we kind of painted a picture of a father's involvement in his daughter's life that was much more appropriate to a 15 and 17 year old, which is what we were when we wrote the book. And we needed a whole lot of hands on, like, management and input. And so we painted a picture of, you know, Parental authority that was based on that that moment in our lives and what we needed then And it's different it is different now, and if we wrote that book again We would write things differently and here is here are just a few principles that we need to take alongside the very important principle of honor to parents.

That, unfortunately, I will not have a lot of time to flesh out here, but at least we need to be aware of them. So one of them is, biblically, we can see that parental authority does change. Galatians 4.1 kind of explains this when it says, I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. But he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. So the point here is that a child is being managed and guarded during a particular time of his life, but he's being prepared for mature adulthood.

And there's going to be a kind of like a switch where he's going to go from being a child to being an adult. And I wish that we had talked more about that and the fact that the purpose of these guardians and this training and this management by parents or guardians or whatever is to train a child into a responsible self-governing adult that wouldn't require as much of that. It's like essentially it's working itself out of a job. It doesn't mean that there's not going to be continual parental input and counsel given, but there's a sense in which that management should be working itself out of a job by the time a girl is an adult. And instead, we've seen examples of situations where it almost seemed like people thought the very management itself was a virtue.

Like it's a virtue for a 35-year-old to be continually going to her dad to ask for management. And it's a virtue for a dad to be continually giving that even when a daughter is 35. And I don't think that's true. Like what my dad would much prefer is that, you know, he has given me the principles, He has given me the foundation, He's given me the Bible, He wants to see me seeking the Lord, He wants to see me being self-governing, making good decisions on my own, and that's really what this should look like. So another principle that we do not have time to flesh out but is very important is that parental authority is not absolute.

No earthly authority is absolute. And at one point God had to tell the children of Israel in Ezekiel 20, do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourself with their idols. I am the Lord your God. Walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." And when it comes to what does a daughter do when she believes her parents statutes are in conflict with the Lord's, we don't have time to get into that. And a lot of the really sticky details of that really have to be fleshed out in a case-by-case basis.

But I will just say that there are recourses in a situation like that, that don't have to look like her becoming a full-blown feminist who's throwing off all authority and throwing off everything her parents taught her and running in the opposite direction. It does not have to look like that. It must not look like that. But it also doesn't have to look like just, you know, basically being in lockstep with your parents, even if you believe that they are commanding you to do something that is wrong and submitting to everything that they say. So And on that, I would say that I think girls of every age really need to learn how to give honoring respectful appeals to a parent.

And Paul tells Timothy, you know, appeal to the older men as you would a father kind of implying that this is something that you have learned how to do with father You know how to do this with your dad, right? So this is what you do with other older men and so this is something that we need to learn how to do as well and You know even in our relationship with with our parents whom we love and I feel like we're very unified with, there are times when we have to make appeals. There are times when we have to sort through things. And when there is a moment of conflict or disagreement, I also would not say that, I mean, that's not a disaster, like that's not a bug, it's a feature. And in order to have good relationships with people, we don't have to be absolutely in lockstep with them, seeing things exactly the same all the time.

Our relationships can be deepened by talking through things, working through things. Our relationship with the Lord can be deepened by having to cry out to Him for wisdom on how we deal with difficult things. These can all be good things in a relationship with a parent. Another principle that we need to keep in mind is an adult woman should really have accountability and input besides her parents. By the time she gets to the point where she's an adult woman, you know, in her church, there's a lot of other people who are actually commanded to be giving input into her life.

For example, the elders, it says, you know, obey your elders and submit to them, this is Hebrews 13 17, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who have to give an account So my parents are not the only people Keeping watch over my soul. My elders are also doing that and they need to know how to do that And so I need to have a relationship with them We also need the encouragement and exhortation of other members of the body. So many verses about that. We also need the instruction of the older women. And what this, so what all of this means is I'm not necessarily trying to lessen the importance of parental involvement, but I'm just saying that basically the accountability in our lives should be much more, not actually less.

And it should spread between more people, not just a few people. And so like, for example, for Elizabeth and me, when we write an article now, like it used to be, when we would write an article or write a book or whatever, we would show it to our parents, we'd show it to our family members. Now we also show it to Pastor So-and-so and Pastor So-and-so and this theologian and this person and this person and this person because we want more accountability not less. So okay and a fourth principle is spiritual vision and purpose has to come from the Lord and not from our earthly fathers. And this is tricky because there is a sense in which a father who is the, you know, he is the authority over his household, he is giving rules for his household, he's setting forth some kind of vision for his household, but when it comes to the individual calling and ministry and the individual vision that the Lord gives, that Elizabeth was talking about here, that comes from the Lord.

It has to come from the Lord. Our reason for getting up in the morning, our reason for doing what's right, that comes from the Lord not from fathers. And so here's a passage that we presented in So Much More as being all about the Father's authority and now it's kind of about that but I also read it differently. It's Numbers 30. If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge while within her father's house and her youth, and her father hears of her vow and her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing, then it shall stand..." I think you're familiar with this, you're very familiar with this passage.

Well, most people kind of see it as, okay, this passage is about a father's authority. But if you think about this kind of from another way, you realize there's actually something really incredible here, going on here. This passage is talking about a young girl in her father's house, she might be about 12, who is expected to be making vows by herself to the Lord. Like she's taking the initiative to make a vow to the Lord all on her own because she wants to do this. And yes, her dad is, he's part of the picture, but this is her vow.

He's not the one who has initiated this vow. She's doing it. And there are limits on his ability to to annul it also. Okay, so a last point was about working outside the home and evaluating just opportunities in general. I know this was true for me, and I found this is true for a lot of friends as well.

In very conservative Christian circles, you can grow up sometimes as a girl thinking that there's two choices. You can be a strictly home-focused girl who's preparing for marriage, or you can be a feminist career woman who doesn't like men and doesn't like children and all that kind of thing, and it's one or the other. And I have seen a lot of girls keep doing the first one for a really, really, really long time, and then finally they're maybe in their late twenties and they're not married and they think, wow, I haven't done anything in about ten years, so I'm clearly going to need to stop doing this. I need to get out of this box, so I will now go be in this box over here. And that's such a shame because these are not actually just the two boxes that God gives us.

And you have people like the Proverbs 31 woman who breaks all the boxes, and she's this incredible synthesis of work and home and domesticity and humanitarianism and all of these things in one package. And it's funny how you can often see the the box that women bring to Proverbs 31 when they talk about it because I'll hear one segment of women say, look at this woman, she is so domestic, she is just all about her husband and her children and she does some handcrafts on the side. And then there's other people who are like, look at this woman, she is this career real estate agent, and you know. And it is actually very hard in our post feminist age to bring these different parts of what she's doing together into one cohesive package and to realize that there's actually a synergy that happens when you bring together all of these different things. So we used to have a very negative idea of things like, well, I don't want to say economic productivity, but work outside the home that made money.

We had this very narrow box in our minds during the time that we wrote so much more, which is basically, oh, you're serving mammon, you're competing with men, you're neglecting primary responsibilities, you are being the helpmate of a man who is not your husband. They were all bad things that we were thinking that this was all about. And I think when young women think that that is what economic work is, They can feel like it's a compromise if they realize actually you need money to survive. Their consciences feel really torn about that. And so something that we needed to understand when we were younger is economic work is not a necessary evil.

Profit is not a necessary evil. Taking dominion and stewarding the earth's resources is not a necessary evil. These things are good. They are very, very good. And they are very good for men.

And where we used to see the Proverbs 31 woman as, well, she's making a little money on the side, that was okay, it was lawful, you know. We didn't realize she's just, she's living out her created purpose to labor, to create, to take dominion, to use her gifts, to meet others' needs, and steward the earth's resources, and create abundance to share with others, and make a profit, and these things are all actually glorious things and very womanly things. We didn't understand the heart of business and industries, it's actually something you just do naturally out of worship to God and service to others and your created nature in his image as a God who worked. And It is interesting when you go through Proverbs 31 and you actually tally up, okay, how many of the verses in here are about her wisdom or her relationship with her husband or any of these other things? You notice that for most of these things it gets maybe one verse, maybe two verses, and then you look at how much airtime is given to her economic productivity in something like nine verses.

So I think this is actually something that should be a way bigger part of the discussions on biblical womanhood than it generally has been. But that said, there definitely are more godly and less godly ways of thinking about it and going about it. And I don't think It's a simple binary sort of two-box system. Do I get a job or not get a job? Is one of these the right answer and one of these is the wrong answer?

Every type of work is different. Every type of working situation is different. Every trajectory of these decisions is going to be different and every girl is different. And so I think there's a huge amount of scope for a girl who wants to find an opportunity to work with her hands and serve others and make a profit. There's a lot of scope for figuring out a way to do that that is really intentional, really God-glorifying, really Kingdom-seeking, sanctification-friendly, church-friendly, future-marriage-friendly, you know, any of these things.

Or it could be the opposite. And a lot of it depends on ourselves, honestly, and what we are bringing to the table and what we are seeking. Here's a couple of factors in making these decisions. One is as you're evaluating a decision, obviously you do have to look for are there out and out rules that the Bible gives that would make this lawful or unlawful. Like as Mr.

Brown was laying out earlier, there are some absolute prohibitions in Scripture for women, there are, and we have to honor those as we're looking at these things. But I think one thing that has tripped up some of us when we're evaluating things like this is this sort of unspoken idea that maybe there is like a regulative principle of women's role in the Bible. So if you're all familiar with the concept of the regulative principle of worship, like anything that is not commanded is forbidden. I think a lot of us can accidentally think, if God doesn't explicitly tell women to do this activity in the Bible, it's probably off-limits for a woman. And that's not true.

It's actually more like the other way around. God tells us what things we are not supposed to do. But then for the rest of it, we're just Christians, and we've just been given this identity and this purpose as dominion takers and Great Commission people, and so we need to not flip it and think that everything is off limits except for what God put specifically in the verses in Pink. I think another thing that has tripped girls up and how they evaluate decisions is thinking that two of the ethical categories that God gives us are femininity and feminism. And I'm mostly talking about the words femininity and feminism because most of you probably have heard those words used in as many different ways as you know people, basically.

And if you believe that, for instance, my conscience is bound to doing things that are feminine. But then what is feminine is defined by your next-door neighbor or all the women at your church or whatever. That can be a very morally confusing place to be. And ditto for feminism because it's almost like an open-source sin. I have heard so many people, like there would be people who would say that we were feministic because the fact that we were not married was feminist.

Well, we were up here speaking, that's pretty bad. Or reading books or people actually used to tell us a lot that helping our dad and brothers with our media production company was feministic. And so we have both just found that it's so much easier to sort things out into the ethical categories that God actually gives us because he has so much to say about the type of womanly character and activity that is good and the type of womanly character and activity that is bad. And so let's let's use those categories instead. And then apart, aside from or in addition to looking at out-and-out rules, there's other categories that are also really helpful for decision-making, like what is the goal, or what is the trajectory, or what kind, what do my counselors say, or what path will this put me on, or what sort of company will this put me around.

There's, there's like multiple layers and levels and angles at which we need to come through, and look at all of these things. Like will this opportunity expand my opportunities to be salt and light, or will it actually constrain my abilities to do that? Will this stretch me in areas where I need to grow, or is it just going to make provision for my flesh? Why do I want to do this? Is it from my flesh, or is it from a desire to please the Lord?

Will this take me away from a better situation? Will this get me out of a bad situation? Is this job a good fit for the person that God created me to be, with the personality God gave me and the spiritual gifts that He's given me, will it help me develop the skills and the gifts that God has given me? Will it help me better serve others? I really, really appreciated how Mr.

Brown was framing things last night and basically saying, you just have to be honest and ask, is this going to make me more careful about obeying the Lord or less? Is it gonna help me mortify the flesh or is it gonna do the opposite? Is it gonna lead me into more purity or less? More spiritual fruitfulness or less? More set-apartness or less?

And these questions are actually a lot harder than, is it a sin for a woman to be an astronaut? Yes or no? Just tell me. Because these are questions that we can actually only figure out between ourselves and the Lord with very serious hard wrestling. We can't shortcut our way to the answers.

We can't actually go to another person for the answers or a book for the answers. But this kind of thing, having to grapple with this level of theological study and spiritual struggle actually makes us more like the Christians God wants us to be, full of power and love and sound minds, equipped for every good work, being led by the Spirit, Training our powers of discernment. And basically, you just can't make decisions like this without a living and breathing relationship with Christ. You can't do it without being counseled with His eye upon you. And you can't do it without seeking Him for dear life.

And that's actually really good news. It is a wonderful thing that God gave us Himself to figure these things out and not, here is your pink rule book. And I'm really thankful for that. And... That was that one.

Okay. Can we, like, cut it? Yeah, we're gonna try to go really quickly now. We're here at the end. We don't wanna cut into our Q&A time, but be writing your questions down and thinking about those.

So now we had a few just encouragements for you all. And one of them was, please do not let anything, including your hope for marriage, hold you back from developing fully in Christ. And this can be a very strong temptation for a girl to kind of get stuck in a holding pattern, afraid to take on a new project or a new study. Because you know, what if what if the right guy came any day, and they're kind of like stuck, frozen, like he could be coming next month, he could be coming... If I had done that I never would have got anything done.

And the thing is the Lord doesn't tell us, you'll be married next year or you'll be married in 15 years, but we are supposed to occupy until he comes and not just wait around. Another thing that can hold girls back is they're kind of afraid of pursuing something that would make them maybe a little bit too serious or a little bit too mature for a lot of the guys that they know. This is a real, you know, this is a real quandary that girls have. And moms have even said, you know, I don't think I want to encourage my girls to study theology because then they will develop these convictions that will make it hard for them to marry certain guys. And I would say, amen.

Yeah, that's a good thing. Another point would be, be anxious about the right things. 1 Corinthians 7 again says, The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. And for many single young women, this is a season of anxiousness, sometimes extreme debilitating anxiousness, but not naturally about the things of the Lord. Naturally it's going to be about worldly things, like am I pretty enough to attract a husband?

Am I in the right places? Do I meet enough people? Is he coming any day now? Should I do this? Should I do that?

And so I would just say let's try to direct that anxiousness towards the Lord and our pursuit of holiness, as has been so well described by so many of the men at this conference. And then number three is put your hope in Christ and not in marriage. And while we are, I mean today we have grappled with a lot of our theology when it comes to womanhood, but we also need to grapple a little bit with our hearts and our attitudes as well, because we can have all the right theology when it comes to being content during the season, and it can still be something that we're not okay with. And we need to be honest with ourselves too about like how much we even personally adopted a view of marriage or a view of womanhood That That was actually small Because that's actually what we wanted And it was not even so much because this is exactly what we were taught, but because we liked the idea of pursuing, pursuing something that was, you know, the Lord's vision for womanhood that was actually kind of our vision for womanhood. And that was going to be about having a handsome husband and adorable children and a house to decorate.

Because as good as marriage is and as good as motherhood is and being a home manager, we can desire all of those things in a very selfish way. And our desires can be more fueled by a Hollywood vision of romance than by the gospel. And we just, we've got to be really honest with ourselves about what is really driving, what is really driving us. And this period of singleness is a test. For a lot of us, it's a big test that will show us who we really are, and what we're really living for, what we're really setting our eyes on, what we're really putting our hope in.

And, um, and I don't want to minimize the fact that, you know, the pain of hope deferred is real. And there's no shame in feeling pain over not having a good thing. The Lord has said it's a good thing to desire, it's a good thing to have, but He hasn't given up, He's not given it to us. And we can we can say, on the one hand, this is good, and yet on the other hand, and yet it is still painful. So what do we do with that pain though?

How do we cope with that pain? And I don't think the right thing to do is to just shut it out, pretend that it's not there, or to try to distract ourselves with all these projects that will make it so that we don't think about it. Or to do what I think some girls have done and kind of develop this hardness like, oh I don't care, you know, maybe I don't want to be married anyway. That's not actually dealing with the pain. And that's not actually letting the pain do its work, its sanctifying work in you.

And so I would say from my own experience, if you feel that pain, don't waste it. The Lord can use pain. The Lord can use pain to sanctify us and to draw us closer to Him. And so let that pain do that work in you. Don't, you know, and don't dwell on it, but make sure that it's it's actively, productively making you closer to the Lord, causing you to cry out to Him more, causing you to become closer to Him and seek Him for the things that you want.

And I'm gonna read a verse here. "'Count it all joy, my brothers, "'when you meet trials of various kinds.'" This is in James 1, 2-4. "'For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. And at first this might not feel very cheerful, Like to say, if you feel pain, just rejoice, okay? Just be happy about it.

But this first, I think, is actually really exciting because it's saying that this trial is actually producing something good in you. It is producing steadfastness, if you let it. And steadfastness will have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. And I can tell you from my own experience that Every time I say I go through kind of a new wave of sometimes my pain comes in waves There are seasons where I'm doing okay And then there are seasons where something happens or there's a disappointment that just makes me feel That pain more acutely and every time I come through that and come out on the other side. I realize I've I've overcome more fears and more hang-ups.

I've developed more faith, and this is exciting. This is a really good thing. One more verse I want to read is, yeah, I'm trying to go fast, Romans 5. Through him, let's see, yeah, through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom has been given to us.

And the hope that this verse is talking about is not the hope of marriage. And we shouldn't feel like, you know, if we're very faithful to endure and be, you know, keep that stiff upper lip, then maybe the Lord will reward our endurance with a husband. It can be easy to have that kind of hope, and that's not the kind of hope that the Lord is talking about here. He's talking about the hope of the glory of God. And that is the hope that he's working out in our lives as we endure through this.

And I actually, I want to just leave you with a quote by a single woman that we met in Russia who was saved out of communism and became a really incredible pillar of her church and her community. She's not married. She dearly, dearly wants to be married. She wants to be a wife and mother. I do not think there is a man in Russia who is a match for her.

No, obviously the Lord can work miracles. He can do whatever he wants, but she's in her she's in her 40s and single and and she said she encourages single women with this statement, which was also very encouraging to me. She said, it is the most natural thing in the world for a woman to desire marriage. It's good, it's natural, God put that desire in you, it's not wrong, but we are called to live supernatural lives. So even with that natural desire we are called to something even higher and by His Holy Spirit we can we can be excited about that.

So anyway I will say that that's the end so that we can bring these ladies up here and and get down to some of your questions.