By Tina Teng-Henson
After 9 months of being my daughter’s main care-provider, I was finally ready to find and pay for consistent childcare so I could focus anew on schoolwork — which then led me further down a path I needed to take: one of more fully integrating this new identity of mine as a new mom with the other parts of who I was before my daughter arrived – daughter, grad student, minister, friend, wife.
For years, I’d felt caught in the tension between complementarian and egalitarian perspectives. I was stuck trying to figure out how to actually relate to my husband, in light of all the different views out there. Don Browning’s concept of critical familism that “promoted preparation for and support of the stable, egalitarian husband-wife partnership in which both partners have equal access to the privileges and responsibilities of the public and the private-domestic world” swept cobwebs from my mind and broke glass ceilings there too.
Did submission to one’s husband in Ephesians 5 mean going along with his views without being allowed to challenge them or think critically about them? Part of me knew that wouldn’t honor the good mind the Lord had given me, but part of me felt culturally conditioned to think that I had to just go along with his perspective. But here was something closer to Ephesians 5’s concept of mutual submission, and I sensed it would bring greater freedom and health to our marriage – and help it become more functional in this season of co-parenting our daughter.
“Stable, egalitarian husband-wife partnership.” Something stable: yes, I nodded vigorously to myself. “Husband-wife partnership.” Yes, I thought. “Equal access to [the] privileges and responsibilities…of the public and the private-domestic world.” Yes! I wanted to shout aloud. I did appreciate the privilege it was to be able to stay at home and take naps when I needed to as a new mom – but I ached for the opportunity to have responsibilities once again to the world outside. To have the privilege of contributing once more to society in more expansive fashion. I longed for that tremendously. I wanted more decisiveness and more help from my husband in sorting out the many details of our private-domestic world. I wanted to share that with him so I, too, could even potentially imagine working outside the home once again.
I am now officially looking for a church job once again – perhaps even one that is full-time. This is not easy to even admit “aloud” on paper – of course it makes sense to everyone around me to just muscle through and finish seminary before starting something new.
But I know myself, and I generally have not thrived in these past 8 years when I have only had seminary coursework on my daily to-do list. I’ve tended to do better with a ministry outlet, enjoyed school most when also ministering. And I believe I’ve ministered better while also a student, aware of my own formation being in process. I have almost always juggled these two – in high school, in college, on staff with InterVarsity. God made me this way.
“You have a baby now, and a husband, Tina. Those are ministries in and of themselves – your new ministries. That plus one class a semester… isn’t that enough?” That is the message I get from the well-meaning thoughts and questions of others. I do agree, in large part. And I would add that there are other elements I probably need to include in my weekly rhythm of life that I perpetually feel slightly deficient in (exercise, reading up on current events, longer Sabbaths). But I know I include those better when I have a life that is a bit fuller.
This ache in me to serve in Christian ministry once again: it’s not what I thought I’d be feeling, with my gorgeous 11-month-old baby girl in the mix, but she is growing up and so am I! Jesus-follower, person, wife, mother, grad student, and minister? I never would have thought it’d be this way. But somehow, it is. That’s my reality. Here I stand.
Tina Teng-Henson has been blessed to learn + grow alongside so many different people, in so many places: Long Island, NY — Harvard College + the South End of Boston — Nairobi, Kenya and Lanzhou, China. She is working towards her Master of Divinity at Fuller‘s Northern California campus.