Lean In or Lean On

Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” is creating quite a stir.  Sheryl is COO of Facebook, a multibillion-dollar company, and has said she wrote this book as “sort of a feminist manifesto.”  In an interview with Forbes Magazine Sheryl said, “I don’t believe in ‘having it all’.  But I do believe in women and men having both a successful career and family. The more women get into positions of power, the more likely we’ll get that.”  Many expect her book to reignite the discussions about working mothers, equal pay, equal promotion and who should be running the world – men or women.  There is even a website to promote these discussions called, LeanIn.org.  I understand Sheryl’s position on women’s rights and having to take a certain amount of heat because of that choice.  I understand because I stand on the opposite end of that argument and take as much, if not more heat, for my position.  I am less concerned about women’s rights, and more concerned about women doing what is right.  Should moms work or stay at home?  We know our rights – how do we know what is right?

First, understand that there is no perfect set of rules that will guarantee perfect kids.  God created your children with free will and he created you the same way.  Should moms choose to stay home and raise the kids?  Should moms work and raise the kids?  Should dads stay home?  Work?  Should both do both?  That is the argument.  Sheryl Sandberg called it a “decades-old debate.”  Why hasn’t the debate been resolved?  Why don’t we know what is right and what is wrong?  Because none of us are God. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”  There is no answer to “Should moms go to work?”  If you ask the wrong question, you will often get the wrong answer.  Ask instead, “Lord, should I go to work? or Lord, should my wife go to work? or Lord, which one of us should go to work?  or Lord, how many hours should I work?”  The only answer you can trust on this issue is God’s.  And there are too many lives involved not to submit to his perfect will and find that straight path.  How can you pray and listen for his perfect answer?  What might hinder your ability to know it?

First, are you praying for your agenda to succeed or God’s?  It is difficult to pray for and accept God’s answer, if you are not open to receive whatever he wants to give.  God is waiting for you to trust him, with ALL you heart.  Do you know that every answer God gives you is the best answer for your life and your family’s lives?  Did you notice I didn’t mention it would be the “easiest” answer?  God isn’t in the business of making our lives easier.  God will direct you to the best path, the straightest path – but it may have a steep incline!  Do you trust God to take care of you or do you trust a career to do that?

Second, are you working to have enough or more?  I remember one student I had when I taught second grade.  He was always dropped off at school earlier than the rest of the kids and the daycare bus picked him up after school.  The first day of school he took off from the back of the lunch line, and ran through the halls to the cafeteria so he could be first in line when we arrived.  He was surprised when he rounded the corner and found me there instead of the rest of the class.  He was even more surprised when I escorted him to the Vice Principal’s office to eat his lunch there.  He and I had several of those kind of “moments” during the year.  Jason was an unhappy child.  His mom dropped him off early each day, in her Mercedes, so she could get to her office.  I found out later that she was often unable to pick him up on time from the daycare.  I still remember Jason.  I still remember the way he hugged me on the last day of school.  I still remember crying for him and hoping his third grade teacher would figure out why he acted the way he did, and offer him both grace and discipline.  I wish I knew what happened to Jason.

You get the point.  As a preacher’s wife, school teacher and mom, my advice to every parent is to be there for your kids – as much as you possibly can manage it.  If you have a car, be content with the fact it gets you from point “A” to point “B.”  Who cares if you arrive in style?  Watch the faces of the kids who are going home, and those who are lining up for a daycare bus.  I did, and that is why I chose to stay home with my boys.  Clip every coupon, go to garage sales for toys and clothing, and walk instead of drive whenever possible.  It is worth it if your child can crawl up next to you, on that raggedy old sofa, whenever he wants to hear a story or talk about something that has been on his mind.  It is worth it when she is afraid or angry and you help her find peace and comfort.

Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to get into positions of power to affect change.  William Booth wrote, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”  May I suggest to Sheryl Sandberg, and everyone else that it isn’t nearly as important to “lean in” as to “lean on.”   “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”  That is God’s timeless answer for the “decades old debate.”

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