I remember feeling very sorry for my brothers as a child. They would have to grow up to work a job and support a family. They would have to be the one in front with the baseball bat if there was a home intrusion. They would have to make the big, scary decisions. Not me. I would be taken care of. I would stay at home and read books to my children, plant an herb garden and sew new dresses, read my Bible in the early morning and obey my husband. Unlike them, you see, I was a girl.
I liked the idea of not having a lot of responsibility. I liked the idea of having someone else figure out things like care insurance or investments. I liked the idea of having money to spend without having to worry about a boss, or deadlines. I liked the idea of not having to make big decisions like where to live or whether to make a career change. I already knew how to cook, clean, and care for children. Those things I was familiar with, those things were comfortable, those things I could do. Signing a mortgage or buying a house? Spending all day away from home completing tasks and attending meetings? Those things were intimidating! Those things were complicated! I didn’t want that kind of responsibility!
The life ahead of me looked simple and uncomplicated, idyllic in a sense. I could care for chickens, and repaint my kitchen in cheery colors, and whip up delicious, wholesome dishes. I would take my children to the park to play, or let them wade in a nearby stream, or get out the finger paints and let them create great works of art. My husband would be my protector and provider, my spiritual and earthly head. The big, scary decisions would fall to him. My life would be different. Simple. Easy. Uncomplicated.
When did I change my mind, and why? The answer is actually quite simple. When I was halfway through college, I realized that there was a price to pay for being taken care of.
I went to college not for a career but so that I would be prepared to educate my children and be an intellectual match for my husband. I chose majors that would allow me to bring in a little pocket money on the side while homeschooling my own children, and I never intended to pursue them full time. My parents paid for my college, and my father saw it as a sort of dowry for my future husband. It was a finishing school, in a way, and I intended from the outset to marry upon graduation and set about keeping house and raising children.
And then it happened.
When I determined that God had created the world through evolution rather than through young earth creationism, my parents became angry. They believed that as an adult daughter I was under their authority until marriage. They were responsible for me until the day my father handed me off in marriage, when my husband would become my authority. All of this I had agreed to. All of this I had embraced. It fit in with my view of my place in life, and my desire to be taken care of.
But there was a price to pay, a price I had not before experienced, and the time had come to pay. My mother told me that when I had a theological question I should ask my father and then believe what he told me. I balked. I couldn’t do it. And then things got worse. With my father’s approval I had begun to date a young man I’d met at college (we called it courting). But now my father changed his mind, and ordered me to break up with him. And that was the end.
Being taken care of, you see, comes with strings. I could be taken care of, but only if I gave up my right to my own relationships, beliefs, and choices. Being taken care of felt safe, yes, but there was a price to pay, a sacrificing of autonomy.
In the end, I made a choice—I chose my freedom. Freedom came at the expense of responsibility, and making all of those big scary decisions. Freedom meant that I was thrust out on my own, that I had to find my own housing, pay for my own college, apply for my own jobs, and make my own decisions. Freedom is hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s intimidating. But it’s also liberating, an opening up of options, a slipping out of my skin and flitting through the clouds. In some sense, freedom is like love—without risking the pain of loss, how would we experience the beauty of human connection?
And so, in the end, I embraced freedom and grew up.