(Photo: Christian Post/Jessica Martinez)
WASHINGTON – The common topics of discussion at the 2013 Women of Faith conference in Washington, D.C., this past weekend were about life balance and fear. Speakers addressed women with open discussions and candid confessions about their own struggle to tackle both issues while addressing familiar pressures that the modern woman faces, placed on them by society and more so within the church.
Priscilla Shirer and Angie Smith, both speakers at the Women of Faith Conference, sat down with The Christian Post on Friday and spoke about the issues they have dealt with and how they have managed to keep their faith, ministry and families intact amid seasons of imbalance and fear. "There's a lot of pressure on women not to say, 'I'm exhausted.' We have developed a mentality that we have to impress everybody and show them how much we can run without any reprieve or being able to catch our breath and all the while, we're the ones suffering," said Shirer, a mother, author and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master's degree in Biblical Studies.
She explained that women carry the weight of being breadwinners and nurturers to their children, and although they exude a strong persona, ultimately, all women want to unwind at times and be taken care of.
"It takes someone else to tell us we're under a lot of stress for us to realize that we actually are. We bear such a heavy load and part of that is because the family structure has dramatically changed in the last 50 years," said Shrier.
Shirer told CP she has managed to uphold her own life by being present and in the moment of any situation instead of attempting to handle everything simultaneously.
"Balance is found in seasons of life by recognizing the season that you're in, accepting it and being willing to fully engage in it. We run into trouble when we try to handle the current season we're in while trying to pull in elements that are reserved for another period in our life. We need to learn how to be content and satisfied with the season God has us in then be willing to shift into the next one when the time is right," said Shirer.
The fear of not being able to balance life's hectic struggles was a problem that Smith – who is a mother, author and wife of Todd Smith, lead singer of the Christian contemporary group Selah – had and she agreed with Shirer that most women do not display their weary and vulnerable characteristics because they face the pressure to not do so.
"Women in Christian circles are hesitant to say they have fear because we equate it with having small faith," said Smith. "There are women who wouldn't raise their hand and say they have fears but this is a common struggle, whether it's the fear of what if, or even about God's plan for our lives."
Smith shared with CP that at times she has sulked in her own moments of weakness when she has doubted that she is able to handle it all, which has resulted in severe anxiety. However, she said she pulls through by surrendering her brokenness to God and declaring freedom from oppression.
"I've learned to get through my anxiety by speaking clearly against the enemy in the name of Jesus. This is a real common problem among us. We live in a hectic world, I mean, turn on the news for 5 minutes," said Smith. "God is not intimidated by our fear or anxiety, he's more than happy to speak to that when we bring it before him and we tell him we don't want it to be our issue anymore."
Both Shirer and Smith told CP that women facing similar issues attend events like the Women of Faith conference to find camaraderie and comfort knowing that there are others like them who do not have it all together.