CP: In your 25 years of motherhood, you say that you've found passion generally follows purpose, not vice versa. But this concept can be a challenge for many women who feel inadequate because society is telling them they must also be working or seeking outside pursuits to be complete. Can you talk about the importance of the self-sacrifice of motherhood and why you warn mothers not to fail at the most important task God has given them?
Roys: When my first son was young, and I was debating returning to work, a very wise pastor said to me, "Julie, God can find someone else to do your job, but you're the only one who can be a mother to your son." That pierced my heart. I quit my job and for 13 years was a stay-at-home mom.
Careers are fine, but they're not essential. What is essential is raising your children well. Once we become mothers, we mothers have no greater Kingdom purpose than molding the lives of our children. Those children, for whom Christ gave His life, are dependent on us for their well-being. And there is no one else on the face of the Earth who can play the role that we play in their lives.
Today, I have two grown sons and a teenage daughter who's still at home. Like most moms, I have some regrets about how I raised my children, but not one of those regrets concerns a sacrifice I made for my kids. In fact, it's just the opposite. I wish I had homeschooled my sons longer, for example, instead of putting them in public high school. I wish I had resisted returning to full-time work when I did, and instead worked part time, or from home like I do today.
Our work and ministries will pass away, but our children will live forever. The way we spend our lives should reflect this reality.
CP: You say that Christians should be purpose-driven and not passion-driven. Will you elaborate on this point?
Roys: Many leaders in women's ministry today tell women that finding their passion is key to discovering their calling. And tragically, these leaders often communicate to young moms that raising children is insufficient; they also need to find expression for their passions outside the home to live a significant life. So instead of encouraging women to give themselves fully to raising children, they encourage them to identify what they love to do, what gives them energy, and what ways they want to change or impact their world. Then, they instruct women to organize their life accordingly.
Though this pursuit may sound noble, it's actually rooted in self. Passion is self-oriented and pleasure oriented. It's all about finding what fulfills you and then pursuing it — a kind of Christianized version of Abraham Maslow's steps to self-actualization.
But Jesus said, "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." So fulfillment, according to Jesus, is not found in discovering and pursuing passions but in sacrificing ourselves for a higher purpose. This is incredibly freeing, especially for mothers who are daily pouring themselves out for the sake of their children.
CP: In Chapter 2 you talk about codependency, not in marriage but in the form of spending an inordinate amount of time trying to rescue someone or make them a project. What are some of the warning signs people should watch out for to alert them that their need to rescue someone is hurting their marriage or even their children?
If you care more about someone else's healing than that person does, then you're probably in a codependent relationship — and codependent relationships are always destructive. They suck the life and energy out of everyone involved, rendering codependents incapable of fully loving the other people in their lives.
Codependency is a kind of relational idolatry. Essentially, codependents are dependent on someone else being dependent on them. They like functioning as a savior to someone else because they're trying to meet an unmet need or heal an emotional wound in themselves. Ironically, though, the unmet need is never met through codependent relationships, nor the wound healed — and the person they're rescuing is ultimately never rescued. Both are stuck in a perpetual cycle of crisis, dependency, and pain.
If you're reading this and suspect you're in a codependent relationship, seek the input of a wise Christian leader or counselor, and begin taking steps to get free.
CP: In your book you take readers along your journey of struggling with egalitarianism and complementarianism and women's roles in the Church. In Chapter 3 you suggest that "a church leadership model that reserves the senior pastorate or priesthood for men, yet allows women subordinate teaching and preaching roles, is about as true to the biblical model as we can reproduce in our contemporary church structures."
Similarly, you note in Chapter 6 the symbolism and importance of men performing baptisms and officiating communion, instead of women, because they are representing Jesus Christ.
Should Christians who attend egalitarian mainline Protestant churches bring up this point for discussion if the reverend who's officiating communion is a woman?
Roys: I wouldn't recommend it. If you attend an egalitarian church, the roles of women and men are based on a comprehensive theology that assumes that men and women are functional equivalents. Congregants need to address that theology, not the outworkings of that theology. And it's likely that the church considers the issue to be settled and is not open to reconsidering.
That being said, I wrote Redeeming the Feminine Soul to speak to egalitarians and complementarians alike. I have heard from several readers who lean more egalitarian that they were open to considering my arguments because I first share my frustration with the way women are treated in the church.
CP: Likewise, should Christian women who attend conservative complementarian churches push for opportunities to teach classes for people older than 18, and for women to preach on occasion?
Roys: Again, I would focus on theology before practice. I am stunned by how many complementarians can't answer the basic question of why God created sex roles. Many lack an understanding of how marriage is both a Trinitarian symbol and a symbol of Christ's relationship with the Church. If they don't understand this, then they're missing the forest for the trees. They're focusing on sex roles without understanding the symbolic meaning that these roles preserve. Once they grasp the greater meaning, then they can consider how it applies within the Church.
CP: During times when you attended churches that didn't give women the leadership and teaching opportunities you were seeking, did anyone suggest to you that you should change denominations? And, if that happened, how did that make you feel?
I can't remember if anyone suggested it. I certainly considered it, though. But churches that were liberal regarding women's roles were often liberal on other issues like same-sex marriage and salvation by Christ alone. Though I could rationalize being feminist when I was younger, I could never rationalize embracing homosexuality or universalism. These issues were non-negotiables for my husband and me, so we never really considered switching to a liberal church.