Christian Working Mom Interview July 2008
Blog/Online Bible Study
CWM Coaching Tips
We have a special treat this month for
the Christian Working Mom Interview. Our interview
is with Carolyn Custis James, an author of several
books and a woman who has a passion for sharing what
the Bible says about women. I have read almost all
of her books and they have encouraged me. Also, her
books have deepened my knowledge of the Bible and
how God sees me. Her most recent book is the
Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the
Rules. You will discover new things about the biblical
book of Ruth you have never known before. My own Sunday
School class is using this book right now and we are
thoroughly enjoying the book and growing spiritually
as a class. In the interview Carolyn has new insight
into what the Bible says about CWMs. I know you will
enjoy the interview. Welcome and a big virtual hug
to all my CWM sisters in Christ all over the world.
I just wanted to let you know when you
fill out a CWM Survey they are anonymous and there
is no way to track it back to you. Sometimes I have
women leave comments on their surveys and want me
to respond. I have no way of responding. If you would
like to send me a question or comment, just send it
Blog/Online Bible Study
There have been some new questions posted
by other CWMs on the CWM Blog. Please come and join
the discussion. You will find the CWM Blog at http://christianworkingmoms.blogspot.com.
Also, you can find the CWM Bible Study at http://cwmbiblestudy.blogspot.com.
May we share our wisdom and insights together.
CWM Coaching Tips
Hiding God’s Word in your heart
is a comfort and a strong defense for when people
or Satan want to attack you. Come join other CWMs
as we memorize Bible verses together and did deeper
into God’s Word. You can find the CWM Coaching
I want you to know a little more about
Carolyn Custis James. Listen as Carolyn’s shares
about herself. My husband and I were married six years
when our daughter was born. I had finished my seminary
education, and Frank (my husband) was in the middle
of a Ph.D. program. We were both working to make ends
meet. Before Frank’s academic studies ended,
God would take us through two Ph.D. programs, including
four years in England for Frank’s D.Phil. from
I never imagined being a working mom.
But I’ve always worked. My daughter has seen
me launch my own business as a computer software consultant
in England, develop a ministry (www.whitbyforum.com),
write books, and start an international network for
women in vocational ministry (www.synergytoday.org).
I’ll be the first to admit, it
hasn’t all been easy. But looking back, I wouldn’t
trade places with anyone. I’m glad my daughter
saw her parents teaming up to do what God was leading
us to do. I’ve been amazed and stretched by
the career opportunities I’ve had. And I’ve
learned a lot about myself through the challenges
I’ve faced along the way.
As working moms, we offer our daughters
(and our sons) a gift when we follow God’s calling
on our lives. And just maybe, by watching us, our
daughters will enjoy a greater freedom to obey God’s
calling on their lives.
Often women in our CWM community feel
guilty about being a working Mom and that they are
breaking the rules. In your book The
Gospel of Ruth you share that Ruth breaks the
rules on numerous occasions. What can we learn from
Ruth that applies to us as CWMs?
Well, before I say anything about Ruth
or Naomi, I should warn you that my book on Ruth—The
Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the
Rules—is not the same old book of Ruth we’ve
always known. My work builds on recent research of
leading Old Testament scholars. And I’m discovering
this ancient book contains amazingly good news for
women—working moms included! There isn’t
time here to unpack all the details. For the full
story, I hope you’ll read the book. But in the
responses that follow, I hope you’ll sense the
fact that a fresh wind is blowing over our lives and
Your question about guilt hits the nail
on the head for me. Guilt seems inescapable for a
lot of women and as working moms we seem to be especially
vulnerable. A little voice inside our heads keeps
telling us there’s a right way for a woman to
live her life, and we aren’t doing it. If the
little voice doesn’t stir up guilt, plenty of
other voices chime in, often within Christian circles,
to criticize moms who work out side the home.
You may have already discussed this
at some point on this website, but the New Testament
command for women to be “keepers at home”
is actually a call to work, for in the ancient world
the home and the workplace were one and the same.
Everyone in the family worked. Historically speaking,
in most cultures, the only kind of mom has been a
working mom. So those voices aren’t exactly
telling us the truth. God calls women to live their
lives in lots of different ways.
One of the many things I love about
Ruth is the fact that she shuts out those voices—over
and over again—in order to do what God has put
in her path and on her heart to do. She is bent on
following God’s calling on her life and she
follows him heart and soul. No signs of reluctance.
No sideways glances to see whether others approve
of her or not. The approval she seeks is God’s.
She exhibits a shocking fearlessness to step out,
to speak up, and to do what needs to be done, despite
the cost to herself. She is living out the gospel.
Ruth is a powerful role model for Christian
women today—whether we are working moms or stay-at-home
moms or never moms at all. She lives wholeheartedly
for God, and throws her full weight into the mission
He gives her, even if it means going against the currents
of her culture.
When God calls Ruth into the workforce,
she doesn’t hold back. She not only works hard,
she uses her wits to figure out a way to beat the
system, so to speak. Instead of bringing home a meager
fistful of scraps (a reasonable expectation for a
gleaner), she crosses the line by boldly suggesting
a different way of doing things to the wealthy landowner,
a man who proves as remarkable as Ruth. After one
day’s work, Ruth hauls home a whopping 29 pounds
of winnowed barley—at least a half month’s
pay for an average male harvester! Naomi is completely
bowled over, and her hope in God revives.
When God blesses Ruth with a son, both
she and Naomi invest themselves wholeheartedly in
raising this small boy. It is an awesome responsibility
with spiritual repercussions that will ripple on for
generations. You can spot traces of the theology of
both women in the Psalms and in the life of King David.
Ruth’s great grandson banked on lessons these
two women learned about God in the school of suffering.
And when David faces down Goliath, it’s clear
he inherited Ruth’s stubborn determination to
live for God, no matter how overwhelming the circumstance.
I love Ruth’s story and, deep
inside, I want to be like her. She teaches me that
every part of my life belongs to God, and I need to
live wholeheartedly for Him. My work matters. My parenting
matters. He has called me to both. And He is working
in me and through me no matter which piece I happen
to be focused on at the moment.
While you were writing the book The
Gospel of Ruth what spoke most to you personally?
Well, you’ve really pushed my
button. I’ve been living in the book of Ruth
for years now, and it has touched my life in so many
profound ways, I could talk forever about how God
has changed my life through this ancient story. Let
me mention three highlights, but believe me they are
only the tip of the iceberg.
The book of Ruth gave me a greater understanding
of God’s heart for His daughters. The ancient
patriarchal world measured a woman’s value by
counting the number of her sons. Yet here in God’s
story, two childless widows—barren Ruth and
post-menopausal Naomi—command the spotlight.
The culture counts them out. They probably counted
themselves out too. Naomi certainly did. Yet instead
of discarding them as worthless, non-contributors,
God gives Ruth and Naomi leading roles in the story
He is telling. At this crucial period in human history,
God recruits two childless widows to advance His purposes
for the world. This puts a whole new slant on how
I look at my life and gives me fresh hope that even
at my lowest points, God is working through me too.
The book of Ruth gives a breathtaking
picture of what gospel living is all about. All three
main characters—Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz—make
enormous sacrifices for the sake of others. They are
rule breakers in the sense that they move beyond the
religious status quote to find bigger and better ways
of living for God and loving their neighbor. They
challenge me to do more with my life and to refuse
to be content with any progress I have made to live
as God’s child in this world.
The book of Ruth casts an amazing vision
for how God means for his sons and daughters to serve
Him together. This vision is completely lost if we
reduce Ruth’s story to a romance. In the biblical
culture, marriages were carefully negotiated transactions
designed to benefit both families. Given the high
premium placed on producing sons, a barren woman would
never do. Besides a man with Boaz’s sterling
reputation in the community would never dishonor his
family by stooping to hunt for a bride among scavengers
in his field.
The relationship between Ruth and Boaz
takes on entirely new dynamics when we recognize the
social disparities between them. It was completely
absurd to think he would ever listen to (much less
learn from) her. Yet because of their shared relationship
with God, the improbable happens. Huge social chasms
are bridged. True listening occurs. Godly ideas are
promoted. A man and a woman join forces and make enormous
sacrifices to provide for Naomi and rescue her dying
family from extinction. Their alliance has given me
hope that God will transform relationships between
His sons and daughters in our day.
I think as women often our emotions
can get in the way of our beliefs about God. You wrote
an excellent book entitled, When
Life and Beliefs Collide. Can you address the
issue of how to trust God when we don’t “feel”
Emotions and plenty of other things
make it hard to trust God. One of the biggest encouragements
for me has been discovering that when I struggle to
trust God, I’m in good company. The Bible is
packed with the stories of God’s people—seasoned,
mature believers—who struggle intensely to trust
Naomi is one of the best examples. We
overlook her by brushing her aside as a bitter complaining
woman, when she’s actually a female Job. Just
like Job, her whole life has gone up in smoke. Standing
in the smoldering ruins of her life, she’s convinced
she has also lost God too.
I’m learning from Naomi that these
times of struggle are important. These are sacred
places where God draws us through our pain to look
at Him more closely, where He does some of His best
work in us, and where our relationship with Him grows
Struggling to trust God is part of every
Christian’s journey. Our struggles expose our
need to know God better, so that when the road gets
rough or the darkness closes in, our faith will have
more to grasp.
Busy working moms often “don’t
have time” to refuel spiritually, much less
to dig deeply into the Bible to know God better. We
miss the day-time Bible studies and are often too
tired to attend an evening gathering. A suggestion
that can help is to read Scripture to your children
and talk with them about what God is revealing about
Himself. The New Living Translation is an excellent,
easy to understand version.
What are the joys of being a Christian
Working Mom for you:
I’ve been blessed to do two things
I love. My work has given me amazing opportunities
to contribute, to support my family, to develop and
grow as a person. Some of the deepest joys I have
ever known have come from my relationship with my
daughter—watching her learn and grow, spending
time together. I never imagined doing both at the
same time. But this is God’s plan for me. In
many ways, it is a great adventure. It has certainly
brought me a lot of joy.
What are the struggles of being a Christian
Working Mom for you:
Like other working moms, I’ve
had my struggles—important struggles, places
where God is working in me. I’ve felt the guilt,
the sense of being left behind when other moms are
getting together and deepening their friendships during
the day, the constant challenge of juggling work and
family, the frustration of never having enough time
(or enough of me) to get everything done, the raised
eyebrows of people whose approval matters to me. Frankly,
I’m not sure these struggles are unique to being
a working mom. I’m an empty nester now, and
some of these same struggles are still with me. Having
said that, they certainly haven’t outweighed
the joys of being a working mom.
What is God teaching you right now?
I tend to be an intentional learner.
More than anything, I want to learn and grow and change.
My learning is a combination of questions I’m
asking from my own struggles, questions I hear other
women asking, my ongoing study of Scripture, and lots
of reflecting on what I’m finding.
We’ve been focusing on working
moms. But we are only one group of women who can feel
out of step with God’s best for us as women.
Singles, childless, widows, divorcees, broken women,
moms of prodigals, the physically disabled, and the
elderly are only some examples of women whose lives
don’t fit the formula. I’m studying Scripture
in terms of all women, not just one particular group.
My work centers on unpacking the Bible’s
message for women—all women. I’m regularly
stunned by what the Bible has to say about us, challenged
by how God’s word raises the bar for us, and
deeply reassured that nothing can ever put His purposes
for us beyond our reach.
Words of Encouragement for other Christian
If you aren’t encouraged already,
I hope you’ll read my books (in your spare time).
I believe what I’m discovering will fuel your
passion to know and walk with God as you serve Him
as working moms!
If you would like to see all of Carolyn’s
books you can click
here to see them.
Carolyn thanks so much for pointing us to God and
the great things God has to say about women. You have
encouraged me today and I’m sure you have encouraged
countless CWMs all over the globe.
My prayer for all my CWM sisters is
that you will drink in today how God sees you and
the big plans he has for your life.
Till next time,
Kimberly M. Chastain