Katelyn Beaty grew up thinking that her life would “proceed in an orderly, ordained fashion: Graduate from college, work for a while, get married, have babies, enjoy grandchildren, go to heaven,” she writes.
When a glitch—a broken engagement—threw the prescribed plan off course, the 2006 Calvin grad was forced to rethink the progression.
“My own life changed course in a time when the conversation about work is lively, in the church and in mainstream culture,” she writes, “... but the conversation hasn’t fully reached the people who make up over half of every Christian tradition in America.”
So based on her own experience (Beaty is the former print managing editor of Christianity Today) and conversations with more than 120 women, she is hoping to change that. A Woman’s Place (Howard Books, 2016) addresses the issues women have faced in the workplace for decades but from a perspective that begins with women as image bearers of God.
“I have been watching the integration of faith and work grow over the years,” said Beaty, “but the dialogue has been oriented to men. There are specific and unique questions and frustrations that women bring to the table, and there hasn’t been a resource for that.”
One of Beaty’s points is to demonstrate the way social standards have been confused for scriptural truth. “Attaching manhood to work and womanhood to the home is a perfect example of well-meaning Christians confusing deeply bound cultural norms for biblical duty,” she writes. “And when such norms are elevated to spiritual prescriptive, so enter unfounded guilt and unfounded judgment.”
Beaty would also suggest putting an end to the phrase “work-life balance,” “as if they are opposing forces to be constantly tamed and managed,” she writes.
“There are many different aspects to a person: friendships, family, work, recreation, travel, faith,” she said. “It’s the integration of all of these spheres that create the whole of life. In mainstream culture, work is seen as getting a paycheck to do the rest of life. If our calling is aligned with what we do, then we are actually finding life at work. ... Life is not just every hour that you’re not at work.”
While Beaty focuses on women’s experiences working outside the home (she profiles eight such women throughout the book), she also recognizes the calling for women to work inside the home. In fact, she reflects on her “granny,” Mary Jean Beaty, who “never worked a day outside the home, she nonetheless gave me an early, vivid image of work done with excellence and care.”
Beaty’s overriding message is that all women fully bear the image of God, and women reflect his image when they work and create in God’s way.
“All women are created to work,” she said. “Work is a good thing. It’s not good up to a point, it’s not to be held in suspect for women. It’s a crucial way women bear the image of God and participate in the renewal of all things.”