Stay-at-home-feminist, part 5

This is the fifth in a series – click here for part 1.

The question then of course must be:  What is productivity?  How should we define it?

My instinctual definition has to do with the output of some kind of marked, quantifiable tangibles.  When someone asks, “What are you doing right now?”  I would like to be able to claim some kind of title — like “pastor”, “teacher”, “doctor” or “engineer.”  Or some kind of ministry, “leading a Bible study”, “discipling” or “teaching Sunday School.”  My desire to make these claims reveals a critical flaw in my thinking, namely, that I am angling to hang my significance on these markers.  For whatever reason, I feel this drive to prove that my existence has meaning by pointing to how I am creating, impacting, influencing and leading others.  If I am not doing that, then I feel that I am not being productive and am somehow less valuable.

But God tells us that our value does not come from what we do.  If it did, then we would have to earn our way to him through good works.  (But it has been by grace that we are saved, through faith; it is the gift of God, not by works.  Eph 2:8-9)  The truth is that God loved us even before we ever did a single good thing.   (“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8)   Our value is based on what he thinks of us, and he must think rather highly of us to choose to die for us.  (“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jn 15:13)   His desire for us is to remain in his love, and a part of that means responding to his love with obedience (see Jn 14:21).  When we respond to his love (whatever it might be), we are being productive. This means that something intangible like worship is productive — nothing to show for that, but it is productive.

This definition of productivity is hard to truly grasp, because we have a secular culture that values the bottom line, titles, and degrees; a church culture that oftentimes holds a checklist over us of what defines spirituality; and an unforgiving inner voice which pushes us to meet these standards.  But worship is productivity.  Loving your baby is productivity.  Being a stay-at-home-parent is productive.  It’s not quantifiable.  There’s no paycheck at the end of the month and no accolades from the world, but it is productive when it is obedience to God.

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