The idea that serving others gives life meaning is not new. In fact, it’s integral to the Gospel message. But in a culture that often values gratification as the highest goal, this belief can seem positively radical.
Pope Francis has talked about the “throwaway culture” that prioritizes productivity and personal pleasure over loving others as they are and subordinating human impulses to God’s will. In secular circles, too, there has been a growing reaction in recent years against the culture of thoughtless consumption and convenience.
Something in our culture speaks to a longing for an old-fashioned ethic of service and meaningful work. We see this manifested in the slow food movement and a resurgence of all things homemade and hand-crafted.
But the current craze for “slow living” leaves the picture incomplete. Somehow there’s a failure to connect these trends with homemaking itself as an art, a discipline, a practice. Crafts and cooking are relegated to casual hobbies, but the real heart behind these activities—the homemaker—is missing.
Choosing a life of service, oriented toward a goal of physical and spiritual fruitfulness instead of striving after power and status symbols, seems regressive at best. Being a homemaker and happy about it almost sounds oppressive. But such a life can lead to real and lasting happiness.
“Thinking power is our purpose really sets us up for frustration,” said Noelle Mering, co-author of Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking. “Any endeavor you enter into for sake of your own power will bring anxiety as you are focused on competition and comparison and what others think of you. But if you engage in the same endeavor for the sake of love, it will lead you to peace.”