Summary: The Credible Christian woman will be found if she nurtures her inner being, if she is being herself, if she is being satisfied with the occupation in which she is engaged and if she will be present to others.

(By Di Appleby)

’For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’.

I think women know a lot about seasons. It’s tied up with our biology – we keep on experiencing changes.

When we first menstruate, we come to realise that we are part of a sisterhood that shares a common secret - perhaps not so secret now that so many ’it’s that time of the month’ jokes prevail. Nevertheless, in spite of the inconvenience or otherwise, of that time of the month, young girls come to realise that it is possible for a baby to grow inside their bodies. The result is that ’baby business’ is part of women’s thinking for a great deal of their lives. Consider the phrases we hear:

I’m too young to have a baby,

Why can’t I have a baby?

How can I fit in a baby?

It’s not the time to have a baby,

Not another baby!

I’ll have to have a baby soon; the biological clock is ticking,

I’ll never have a baby; I’ve never had a baby.

This touches every woman.

It’s stating the obvious to say that it takes two to make a baby, but it is the woman who brings the baby to birth and so in some primeval sense, woman imitate God’s creative character as they push their children out into the light. I can remember thinking we were so clever when Katherine was born! Yes, we were clever! I knew that we were in the baby business together and Chris has been a great father and he still is. But, while there may be examples of men who have the desire to nurture others, who think more often about children and family members, who fit their lives around their children and family, it seems that women are marked by the decisions they make regarding their families. That may involve the upbringing of a child, the mediator in family arguments, the sorting out of family property or the care of an aged parent Today, women have so many choices and so many opportunities to make poor choices.

I have begun by mentioning our biology because I think women can be so messed up by their relationship with their children and other family members, and especially Christian women. We want so much to be ’good girls’ or ’good mothers’, that we are easily swayed by the current ideas of what that might mean and the Christian community is not always supportive of the choices we make. So we need to remember that above everything else we are God’s children, his daughters, if indeed we have by grace accepted his offer of forgiveness through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

This has been a long introduction to what I really want to say about the credible Christian woman and it’s this: that regardless of what time or season we are presently facing, our being is more important than anything we might be doing. We can expect changes; we can expect to be faced with many decisions than will lead to action, but how are we before God? Whatever we do or say is first determined by who we are. God knows us and loves us as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way and he longs to change us to be more like Jesus. What can we learn from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 and the story of Mary and Martha that will impact on our being and lead us to live more Christ-centred lives? If we are to be credible Christian women, this is what we need to consider: nurturing our inner being.

The poetic list in Ecclesiastes of things people might do throughout their lives is concerned with beginnings and endings and the choices we have to make to maintain good relationships in life. It’s a difficult thing. Some actions and decisions come easily to us, but knowing when it is time to speak or time to keep silent for example, or when it is time to keep striving after some desire or time to leave it behind, is not so easy. If we want to have the wisdom of God, we need to be nurturing our inner being, looking after our soul. The psalms express this beautifully:

He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul (23)

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him (62)

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul (94)

Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is in me, bless his holy name (103)

We need to spend time in God’s presence, allowing him to renew our inner being, as we read his word, listen for his leading and praise him for the great God he is. In God, we’re promised restoration, hope and consolation. Isn’t this what everyone is seeking in their lives, just as Mary was seeking it when Jesus visited her home?

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