God’s Plan and Purpose
About the Guest
Is your life a juggling act? Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the best-selling book For Women Only, lays out a biblical blueprint to help the modern woman balance her life. She also explains The Life Ready Woman – a video study of eight sessions designed for women of all ages and seasons of life.
Shaunti FeldhahnShaunti received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before unexpectedly becoming a social researcher, best-selling author and popular speaker. Today, she applies her analytical skills to investigating eye-opening, life-changing truths about relationships, both at home and in the workplace. Her groundbreaking research-based books, such as For Women Only, have sold more than 3 million copies in 25 languages and are widely read in homes, counseling centers...more
Is your life a juggling act?
God’s Plan and Purpose
Shaunti: Last year, I drove my van through some floods in Atlanta. My van is not created for that; so, unfortunately, I totaled my van. I was trying to make it do something it wasn’t designed for; so, it broke down. We, as women, sometimes feel like we’ve been totaled. We feel like we’re breaking down. Well, maybe we’re not designed to do what we’re trying to do. We’re not designed for that purpose.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, what exactly is God’s design for womanhood and what’s broken? We’re going to talk about that today.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us. You know this is going to stir some things up, don’t you?
Dennis: This is going to ruffle some feathers.
Bob: But you’re okay with that?
Dennis: Hey, I think if there’s ever been a day when there needed to be some good, clear biblical teaching and instruction with compassion for women, it is today. Fortunately, you and I are not the ones—
Bob: We’re going to be providing that.
Dennis: That might make it a little difficult to choke down if they’re having to hear from you and me; so, we invited Shaunti Feldhahn to join us again on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Put her in the firing line.
Dennis: I think, you know—
Shaunti: Thanks, guys.
Dennis: What better person to bring in here and to say, “Okay, Shaunti, speak the truth in love.” Welcome back to the broadcast.
Shaunti: It is good to be with you, I think.
Dennis: You think. Well, our listeners recognize her because of her book, For Women Only. She has been teaming up with FamilyLife and Robert Lewis here at FamilyLife around a new project called The LifeReady Woman. Now, Shaunti explain to our listeners what The LifeReady Woman project is all about.
Shaunti: Well, I think the subtitle actually says it all because the subtitle is “Thriving in a Do It All World.” Basically, what it is, is helping women see a biblical blueprint for how we balance our lives as modern women.
Bob: You’ve done that in a book that you and Robert have co-written—
Bob: But there is also a curriculum that you put together?
Shaunti: Yes. There is a video driven study that women can do like the Bible studies that many women do each spring, fall, summer, whatever. It is an eight session study where it is a teaching time and a small group discussion time. The whole point is to bring women of all ages and stages of life: different demographic backgrounds, stay-at-home moms, executives.
Everybody can benefit from seeing what the Bible says about how we as modern women really organize our lives; so that, we do have this sense of thriving in abundance and peace rather than the stress and the “how do I get through life.”
Dennis: I was thinking where Bob was going as he asked you that question and he—when he said, “Now, you’ve done that.” He went on to talk about the video series that has been created for women, but you’ve also done it in real life because you’re a graduate of Harvard. You’ve been a writer for a major newspaper, you are a mom of two, you’ve got one husband that you’re juggling all of life, and you’re living this right now.
Bob: So, you’ve thrived in a do it all world.
Shaunti: I’m the guinea pig.
I’m the study actually. Yes. I’m definitely the guinea pig. I have a husband of sixteen years and two kids who are seven and ten years old. I have a thriving ministry of traveling and speaking and writing these books and soccer runs—
Shaunti: And church activities and everything else that every other woman juggles.
Bob: Most women who are juggling it find themselves at least at some point going, “You can’t do it all—
Bob: “And quit trying to tell me I can. I’m dying under the pile.”
Shaunti: Yes. Well, this is actually one of the things that is, I think, one of the key principles for women to start with. When we start figuring out, “Okay, what is this biblical blueprint look like,” one of the key principles is to confront some of these myths that we believe.
One of those myths is the idea that you can have it all or at least have it all, all at the same time. We’re not designed to be able to have it all, all at the same time. It is killing us when we try.
Dennis: That is what I want to talk about for a moment. Let’s say Bob and I had the ability to go back and interview you right after you’d walked across the stage and received your diploma from Harvard; and we said, “Shaunti, we want to sit down. We just want to get your perspective of what a real woman is, what God’s woman is all about.” What would we have heard from at that moment from you?
Bob: Were you a believer when you graduated?
Shaunti: I was. Yes—
Bob: Okay. So, you were—
Shaunti: I had been a believer for three or four years at that point.
Bob: Committed to Christ. You wanted to live your life to honor Him, right?
Dennis: Harvard helped—helped anchor you biblically—
Shaunti: Oh, immensely as you can imagine.
Dennis: Around what a woman is to be, right?
Shaunti: Well, let’s just say that the Christian fellowship group there and the people there had slightly different opinions than all my classmates about what things should look like.
Dennis: So, what would you have said?
Shaunti: I probably would have said, “Oh, yes. I can have it all. I’m going to have the husband and the kids; I’m going to have the thriving business; I’m going to grow organic food; and I’m going to make all of our clothes. I’m to do it all and go to the gym every morning and be a size six.”
So according to sort of what you think growing up in this culture it does feel like that is what your life is supposed to look like, which is one of the reasons why there are so many women who just feel guilty all the time. Or they feel incredibly stressed, torn, and burdened; and it’s because we are trying to fit into this mold that, really, is impossible for anybody: man or woman. Men aren’t designed to be able to do it all, all at the same time either.
Dennis: One of the things I did a number of years ago was teach a sixth grade Sunday school class. I would occasionally ask the young ladies, “What do you want do, what do you want to be when you grow up?” After a few years of hearing this—now again, mind you, this was more than a decade ago; so, we’re talking about, really, not recently because things have changed a bit since ten years ago.
As I began to ask them that question, a number of them would say, “Job, success.” Virtually none of them talked about being a wife—
Dennis: Being a mother.
Dennis: Investing in the next generation. It is not that you can’t do both because when we did decide to do this video Bible study series for women, we chose you. You’re juggling a lot of things.
Dennis: Women do work. They do raise kids in the process, but the problem is this culture is not really training young ladies to be a wife and a mom.
Bob: In fact, you sat down with a diverse group of women. I think there were fourteen in your group.
Bob: You quizzed them, asked them a bunch of questions, and just got a lot of feedback as a part of the process for this. What did you learn from them?
Shaunti: This is one of the things that, to me, was the most important sort of foundational piece of how this was going to work to create a study that worked for all women. This is one of the things, honesty, I think the Christian community has struggled with in trying to put together books and Bible studies because we tend to sort of automatically want to fit into this white, suburban, Evangelical, living in the Suburbs mold.
I’m in my early forties, and I can tell you how this applies to me as an early forties, white, suburban, Evangelical, conservative Christian. I don’t know what looks like to try to be a biblical woman who is a black, single mom in the inner city. I don’t know what it looks like to be a husband and wife who are struggling to have children. I don’t know what it looks like to be a grandma who has raised godly children. I don’t know what those things look like; so, that is one of the reasons why I gathered this group of women together.
The fourteen of us, basically, went through this process for a year of sitting down, looking at this biblical blueprint, digging it out, and how does it apply to you and you and you. Anybody who does the video series will see all of those things represented.
(Audio excerpt from video series)
Woman#1: My challenge is really going deep inside of me and seeking out what is God’s calling and purpose for my life and how do I make sure that whatever favor or success He’s given me in the context doesn’t distract me from God’s ultimate calling and purpose.
Woman#2: You are supposed to have an education. You are supposed to able to stand on your own two feet, be independent. That is what I grew up with.
Woman#3: To me, that’s one of the biggest challenges: feeling like there is a part of myself, some of my God-given gifts and talents, that would be wasted in some way if I put them on hold. I wouldn’t be able to regain that in the years to come.
Woman#4: I’m very much single, but I’m very much in a long term relationship that is leading towards marriage; and so, I don’t know if I am allowed to make choices as a single or if I’m not supposed to make choices as a single. (laughter) You know because….
Woman #5: My biggest challenge is balancing. I feel like I’m always trying to—it’s a balancing act for me all the way around because I’m a single mom. It is so hard just thinking—getting my arms around what my biggest challenge is because we’re always running, we’re always doing stuff. Sleep, I get none. (laughter) I feel like it all needs to be done, and it is on me.
Woman #6: I think my challenge is to harness the desires that I have. I have had a career, a career that I worked very hard in. I was very ambitious and had hoped to climb pretty high in the scale, but I knew at the bottom of my heart that God wanted me to be a mom. When it came time to be a mother, I knew what I believed in my heart the thing to do was to put that aside and give my children as much of me as they could have.
(Audio from video ends)
Shaunti: It is the biggest mistake for us as Christians to try to say this one thing of how my life looks is how it is supposed to look for everybody because that is not the way that God works. He gives us this amazing diversity of gifts and talents. Some of us have circumstances that are not what we would want. It’s still got to relate to a biblical framework that is unchanging.
Bob: Yes. There is still a pillar in the midst of this—
Bob: That you’ve got to point to and say, “Okay, whatever it looks like—
Bob: “It’s got to be anchored to that pillar.” That’s where you kept coming back and saying, “We do have a diversity of backgrounds, a diversity of economic situations, a diversity of life circumstances; but that pillar doesn’t change—”
Bob: “In the midst of that.”
Dennis: Bob, that’s what I’m concerned about for a generation of young ladies growing up in this culture. They are hearing the message of the culture that they can have it all. When, that is a myth at best and a lie at worst.
Dennis: They are not going to have it all. They’re going to have to make choices about where they invest their time. That biblical anchor, that’s what gives them the ability to make the tough choices.
Shaunti: Exactly. That is what we have been missing. That is why I am so excited about this study because a lot of us don’t realize that all of the stress that we feel like. Often it comes because we have all of these great opportunities, really fantastic things. We don’t know how to choose between them. We really have to learn: how do I manage my life, how do I make good choices.
It is stuff that we don’t really even think about day to day; but there is a biblical model that has not changed. We look at the Bible; and we think, “Oh my gosh! Well, I know I want to live according to the Bible, but I don’t see anything chapter and verse that says, ‘Here’s what Shaunti should do when she has this great opportunity versus that one.’”
Because our world today as women looks completely different than it did when the Bible was written, but there is something that hasn’t changed. That is God’s design for us hasn’t changed. The way He has designed us a women and as men, for that matter—the way He has designed us hasn’t changed.
Our callings—the fact that He has specific callings for the human race and for us as women and for us as individuals hasn’t changed from thousands of years ago ‘til today; so, we dig those callings out, that job description out. We organize our life that way and use it to make choices. Suddenly, we will have that feeling that we’re thriving. We have peace, abundance, and delight; instead of this stress, juggling it all, and “how do I not have enough hours in the day” kind of feeling.
Bob: The biblical grid that you’re encouraging women to use in the LifeReady Woman video series and in the book is a grid that comes right out of Genesis, right?
Shaunti: It is. It is basically if we look at what our design and our callings are and if we’re functioning according with that or not, it does come out of Genesis. First, let me mention that when I talk about functioning according to our design and our callings, we all know that every created thing has design specifications: something that it is created to do and stuff that it is created not to do.
Last year, I drove my van through some floods in Atlanta. My van is not designed as an amphibious vehicle, and it was not created for that. So, unfortunately, I totaled my van. That’s an example. I was trying to make it do something it wasn’t designed for; so, it broke down. That is the way we as women sometimes feel. We feel like we’ve been totaled. We feel like we’re breaking down. Well, maybe we’re not designed to do what we’re trying to do. We’re not designed for that purpose.
So, what is our design? What is our purpose? What are our callings? If you go all the way back to Genesis, you’ll see. God, when He put Adam and Eve on the Earth, He gave us our design specs. He gave us our job description. He basically said no matter what else you do here are the three things you have been created to do.
He said you’ve been designed to leave and cleave. You know, leave father, mother; cleave to your wife. Of course, that applies in both ways. So, it is like you are designed to become sort of an independent individual. You’re supposed to begin to step into maturity as a person and cleave: for us as women, to cleave to a man in a super-bond called marriage. There are all sorts of things that means.
Then, the next thing we are designed for is He says—God says, “Be fruitful and multiply.” We are designed not just to have kids but to really raise up and nurture and be part of launching a godly next generation to fill the earth with people who’ll look like God wants us to look.
He also says—and this is really important for us as women because sometimes we think we are kind of limited to the first two: where, sort of, the church tells us that really you’re kind of limited to these. That is not true at all. God turned to both Adam and Eve and said, “You are to subdue the earth and rule over it.” So, we’re designed for the third thing. The third part of our job description is to subdue and rule. That is to advance God’s kingdom purposes on the earth beyond the home and into the world.
Essentially, what is happening is if we miss any of those three parts of our job description and our design specifications, we are going to walk through and end our life looking back with regret or even looking back in five years with regret. It is because it’s how we’re created.
So, that grid of looking, “Am I leaving and cleaving? Am I being purposeful about ‘be fruitful and multiply?’ Am I looking for opportunities to subdue and rule and advance God’s kingdom purposes, whatever those might be, beyond the home and into the world?” to the degree that I am flowing in those.
It is going to look different at different parts of my life—that is one of the other things we talk about—to the degree that I’m being purposeful about those. It will feel like life is fitting to the degree that I’m not “it will feel like life is breaking down.” So, that biblical blueprint, it has many ramifications for us, but that is the starting point.
Dennis: That—that biblical blueprint can cost you, though—
Dennis: In terms of self-sacrifice. You told a story before we walked into the studio just about how you wanted to go snow skiing.
Shaunti: I know. This is an example of how this works when you have to make choices to look at this biblical grid. I mean, I was actually out meeting with one of my publishers which is in Colorado Springs. It was April of all times, and a blizzard came up—only in Colorado would that happen.
Really what happened: it was a Friday afternoon. My kids had soccer games on Saturday, and I was supposed to be flying home on Friday; instead, it was like all the airlines we’re saying, “Can you volunteer to bumped and go out on Sunday instead?”
One of my friends at my publisher said, “We’re going to have almost two feet of fresh snow. Come stay overnight. We’ll take my 4x4 up into the mountains, and we’ll go skiing for the day.” I love skiing, and I don’t get to do it enough because I have kids who are ten and seven years old.
Dennis: And you live in Atlanta.
Shaunti: And I live in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many options for snow skiing in Atlanta. I would have loved to have done that, but I literally—I was in the middle of working on this study for FamilyLife. I literally thought, “Okay, leave and cleave, be fruitful and multiply, subdue and rule. How am I doing?” I’m already doing pretty good on the subdue and rule thing.
Bob: But you wanted to rule those slopes that weekend. Didn’t you?
Shaunti: Oh man, I did!
I really, really did. You know, I look at this, and I already have all these ministry opportunities. I have great opportunities to expand God’s kingdom, hopefully, beyond my home; but for me, the area I need to work on is “be fruitful and multiply” and make sure that I’m pouring into my kids just as much as I’m pouring into the next women’s conference, right?
So, I literally thought about this and said, “That’s where I really need to make sure that I’m focusing.” So, I told my friend, “You know, I would love to go skiing, but I’m going to have to take you up on that in about ten years.”
Here’s where it works individually: imagine that instead of being in my shoes. Imagine it was a stay at home mom who is being given that choice. Imagine that she is already doing a fantastic job of “be fruitful and multiply.” She is with her kids all day long and that she has an opportunity to speak into the life of this coworker at this publisher who is struggling with stuff and is worried about her marriage.
She might make a difference choice in the interest of “subdue and rule.” She might say, “This is an opportunity for me to speak into this woman’s life and advance God’s kingdom in that way.” Because she is already doing an excellent job of “be fruitful and multiply;” so, she might make a different choice, but it is the same biblical grid.
Bob: Is there a hierarchy to that grid? Do you look at it and say, “Okay, this is got to happen and this one’s optional or not?
Shaunti: I don’t know that God has spelled it out in quite that way, but I think all of us know that first and foremost we’re designed to have relationship with the Lord. First and foremost, that has to be our priority.
I think all of us also see in all of the other books of the Bible that there is an emphasis on marriage. If you don’t get that right then everything else kind of falls apart, unfortunately. That said, remember: because we are designed to do all three of them, to some degrees, we can get a sense for how we’re doing on that and how we’re not doing on that.
Like the stay at home mom who is already doing a great job on “be fruitful and multiply,” maybe she looks at it and says, “Well, instead of speaking into the life of my coworker, I need to get home. It is not necessarily just for my kids, but I haven’t spent any time with my husband in the last week. He’s going through stuff at work, and he needs me now.”
So, again, it is going to be individual for every woman. That is what I love about how God has designed us because we all have this wonderful uniqueness. We can all learn from the way that He’s designed us how to function with that rather than at odds with that.
Dennis: What I hear you saying, Shaunti, is if we’ll follow God’s design for being a woman or for being a man, there is great liberty—
Dennis: And life—
Dennis: In those choices; but if we don’t know what that design looks like and we can’t live life on purpose, then this culture and the lure of having it all
Dennis: Can seduce us. That is dangerous.
Bob: I think it is so healthy for women to be able to get together with other women and have an island of clarity on stuff like this over a period of weeks like what you’ve designed in The LifeReady Woman video series. Just getting together with other women, listening to what you present, having an opportunity to interact, and to work through it and apply it, I think a lot of women are going to find this very helpful.
I think a lot of women’s groups at local churches are going to find this material is—well, it is something that every woman in the church can relate to. It is going to help build stronger marriages and stronger families in your local church. You can find out more about The LifeReady Woman video series that has been produced by FamilyLife when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
There is a video clip available there that you to watch. There’s more information about the video series. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. Or you can call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-Today, 1-800-358-6329. That is 1-800, F as in “family”, L as in “life”, and then the word TODAY. We can answer any questions you have about the series, or we can make arrangements to get the DVD’s sent to you.
By the way, much of what we have talked about today is also in a book that Shaunti has written with Robert Lewis called LifeReady Woman. If you can help FamilyLife this week with a donation of any amount, we’d love to send you a copy of that book. It is the brand new LifeReady Woman book by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis. It is our way of saying thank you this week when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and make your donation on our online donation form. Type the word “READY” into the key code box that you see on the donation form, and we’ll know to send you a copy of the LifeReady Woman book. Or call 1-800-FL-Today, make a donation over the phone, and just ask for the LifeReady Woman book; and we’ll send it to you.
Let me just say how much we appreciate your financial support. We are listener supported. If it weren’t for you pitching in from time to time to help with these financial needs, this program could not continue. So, we appreciate your support of this ministry.
I want to encourage you to join us back here again tomorrow. We’re going to continue talking about how a woman can align her priorities and take faith steps that will help her define the life that God intends for her to live. That’s coming up tomorrow, and I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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