This is Part 1 of a three-part series on a crucial and often-overlooked way that we women can find peace instead of stress in our lives.
I have a question for all the women out there: Do you want to live a life of peace and rest instead of stress?
Ok, that’s probably a stupid question. I’m quite sure none of you are thinking, “Sure, Shaunti, sign me up for the stress track.”
So let me ask it a different way: Do you want to know a profoundly important factor to living a life of peace instead of stress—even if it might press a few buttons and be uncomfortable to consider?
If so, here’s the not-so-stupid question that will get us started: Have you ever stopped to think about all the events that would appear on the timeline of your life? From childhood, through the teenage years, and then into the ever-changing adult years, our lives are a pretty wild ride, right? We have family dynamics, education, careers, travel, joys, losses, financial ups and downs, children, long hours, health issues, friendships, aging parents, aging ourselves—and about a million other factors that make up life’s tapestry.
And it turns out: within that very tapestry is a very, very important truth to finding peace and joy in our lives instead of stress and sadness. A truth many of us sort of know, deep down—but we may not grasp just how practical it is. In this Part 1 and Part 2, we are going to look at this truth and several key action steps that will help us get to that life of peace. Part 3 will help us figure out what to do if we don’t want to take those action steps!
The big truth: There are seasons of life that are God-designed
If you look closely at all the events on the timeline of your life, you will see certain patterns appear. Certain seasons of life. Everyone has them. And the key truth is: we are designed by God to fit these seasons. So we need to honor them.
For some of us, that sounds too simplistic to matter. For others of us, we may even rebel against that concept. (“I shouldn’t have to live according to some arbitrary notion that there are life seasons!”) But hang in there with me as I explain this. Because I think you will see that this concept is one of the most overlooked factors to thriving in life. It is also one of the key concepts you can unpack in my bible study Find Balance, and the companion book The Life Ready Woman.
Here’s the starting point. If you look at every person who has ever lived on the planet, you will see that certain biological and emotional factors are just true, in general. It is just the way God created life to progress. When we are children, we generally develop at a particular pace, and we need the loving care of an adult in order to have our physical and emotional needs met. If we don’t have that, we tend not to thrive. As we get older, we long to spread our wings and fly away from the nest. If we are prevented from doing so for too long, we tend not to thrive.
As adult women, as we move into our child-bearing years, there is a window of time in which we can get pregnant and bear children fairly easily. Then less easily. Then not at all. That doesn’t mean we cannot adopt and raise children at any time we choose—of course we can—but simply that it becomes difficult or impossible to bear biological children. Similarly, if we do have children at some point in our 20s or 30s, we are in a window of time in which we have a responsibility to care for our little ones who need physical and emotional care in order to thrive.
And of course, things then progress: Our kids grow up, leave the nest, we care for aging parents, we parent adult children, and we age ourselves.
Each season has its own God-given beauty and joy and each also comes with God-designed limitations. And because these gifts and limitations are God-designed, a huge part of our thriving in life comes from our willingness to honor how God designed us rather than fighting against it and/or simply believing it “shouldn’t” be that way.
So let’s look at our first and most important action step.
Action step #1: Work with your season, rather than against it
It can be life-changing when we understand not only our current season of life but also how to do what God has called us to do in a way that “fits” with that season. This allows us to work with ourdesign instead of working at cross-purposes to it. Because when we work at cross-purposes to our season, we tend to not thrive. We tend to have stress, instead of peace and rest.
For example—and this can be really hard for us go-getter women to hear—there are things that we simply cannot do as easily in certain seasons that we can much more easily do in others. For example, if we have a lot of caretaking responsibilities for aging parents, we have constraints that simply didn’t exist at other times. And this is not just a woman thing—this is a human thing. It applies to both men and women.
Let’s consider a scenario. Suppose you’re in a season where you have young kids, you and your husband both work and share parenting duties, and your husband travels a lot for business. Suddenly you are approached about an amazing chance to get a promotion, take a different job, or run a franchise business—some new opportunity that will require significant consistency and long hours during the day.
If you didn’t have children, or if your children were older, it would be a completely different conversation, right? But because you are in a “young kids” season, suddenly there is a different calculus—or at least there should be. (“If I take this job, who cares for little Allie when she is sick and can’t be at preschool? Who takes Ben to T-ball at 5 p.m., since I won’t be off work by then? If my husband says he’ll do all that, what happens when he’s out of town? Do I want to not see my kids until dinnertime? Can I still give the kids what they need from me at this age and do a good job at the promotion/new job/ franchise business?”)
Sometimes, we work it all out. Your husband cuts back to part-time so you can buy into the business, and the kids can still have a present, engaged parent after school hours. Your mom lives down the street and is always available to help with the grandkids.
But sometimes we simply don’t want to consider the constraints of our season and situation. In fact, we’re pretending that we don’t have constraints. We’re assuming we can do it all and have it all and be it all, all at the same time. In other words, we simply aren’t living according to our season of life.
So we try to do it all … and find that we’re not doing anything well. We had to pick up a sick child for the third time this month and close the shop, we missed our revenue targets, and we’re squabbling with our spouse about schedules. The kids are unhappy, people at our job are unhappy, the marriage is unhappy, and we’re unhappy.
And that is why we’re stressed.
Our souls find rest and peace when we lean into rather than kick against the currents of our age and stage. When we tell the franchisor, for example, “Oh wow, I’m honored that you would invite me to be a part of this franchise. I would love that, and I think I would do a good job. But while we have young kids, I’m simply going to have to find a franchise situation that offers me a lot more flexibility.”
And then we embrace the season we are in and enjoy every opportunity to be the field trip/sports/theater mom that we also want to be.
Believe me, as I share in the Find Balance bible study, I personally understand how hard it can be to accept this concept. I don’t want to miss something, and I want to try to do it all, all at the same time.
But what we have to realize is: when we embrace our season, we don’t miss something, we find something. We find the unparalleled beauty of being present in the way God has designed, and have many more opportunities for peace at the same time.
This article was also published at Patheos.
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