My friend Kate Harris wrote a wonderful article about “Constraint and Consent, Career and Motherhood” over at QIdeas. Don’t be fooled: though Kate is writing from her own experience and thus exploring motherhood, her article is widely applicable and challenging to everyone, not only those who are women or mothers.
In her essay “Paying Attention To The Sky,” the late French philosopher Simone Weil writes, “the effective part of [our] will is not effort, which is directed toward the future. It is consent…” And for women, Christian women in particular, seeking to make sense of what can at times feel like incongruent callings, longings, or responsibilities, coming to understand our lives in terms of willful and intentional consent is far more sustainable than it is to orient our lives around perpetual striving or greater efforts to “balance.” This is not to say women ought not to work hard, to strive, or to employ a balanced view of limited time and resources – quite the opposite! Rather, what we are to strive for is a deeper understanding and living out of what it means to willfully and intentionally consent to those circumstances and tensions and longings, perhaps even disappointments, that give shape and meaning to our life as they are lived over time, even when the timelines don’t shake out exactly as we might hope. Our consent is not passive or merely “submissive” as some may be apt to misinterpret, it is our most effective act of will.