Several weeks have passed since Yahoo! announced its appointment of 37-year-old Marissa Mayer as its new—and very pregnant—CEO, a historical first for a Fortune 500 company. Unsurprisingly, the announcement triggered all shades of opinion about motherhood, family life, and the modern working world. In the wake of hyperactive news cycles reigniting the proverbial, wearying, "Mommy Wars," I find one key theme remains largely and persistently unaddressed in our contemporary dialogue about women and their work in the world. What Christians can bring to the conversation about Mayer and similar cultural moments is a distinct understanding of embodiment and vocation.

Years ago, in a seminary class titled "Reading the Word and the World at the Same Time: Understanding and Engaging Contemporary Culture," I was surprised to discover the first six weeks of lectures oriented around sexuality - and I do mean "Sexuality" with a capital S. This was no church picnic. On one level I understood the connection, because we happen to live, then and now, in a highly sexualized culture, but I was struck by our professor's explanation of his syllabus. As he explained, "If the Christian vision of human life claims to account for all of life under the sun, then it should be able to make sense of how good a kiss feels."

The professor was arguing rightly, I believe, that if we cannot coherently account for the desires and passions, the tensions and realities, that are most near to us in our flesh, we cannot account for a faith that makes sense of the whole world. In short, he was arguing for a holistic understanding of vocation that insisted on a rich understanding of embodiment. I find this connection especially critical for women whose potential for childbearing seems to be ever at play in questions of vocation. For women, making sense of the work of our bodies, whether actually or potentially, is essential for coherently living out the fullness and diversity of vocation.

Yahoo!'s announcement about Mayer illustrates this by highlighting the crux of the tension so many women of various classes and capabilities feel in the marrow of their souls. Mayer is publicly taking up what countless women take up quietly day-by-day: seeking to coherently navigate work of two profoundly different natures. Pregnancy and childbirth, nursing, swaddling, and cradling an infant, willingly acting as a spit-up napkin for years on end, is work of a deeply embodied nature. Conversely, the work of a top executive, an account executive, and countless other marketplace or market-oriented jobs are largely disembodied tasks. Most of our modern dialogue about these types of work typically elevates or attacks one type of work at the expense of another, or merely focuses on the important-but-not-ultimate logistical arrangements or policies that seek to alleviate the inevitable tensions for women. Instead, Christianity offers a view of the human person that accounts for the legitimacy of many types of work, many types of arrangements, and profound uniqueness between circumstances. It also honestly acknowledges the physical constraints that women face in mothering, even in the midst of pursuing a wide variety of work and responsibilities outside the home.

As Lilian Calles Barger observes in her excellent book Eve's Revenge, much of our modern expectations for women are informed by the welcome progress of feminism in our culture. Yet feminism is also the source of some of our most persistent challenges. As she writes, "Many, but not all, feminist thinkers have built their theories on the assumption that woman's body is the problem that must be overcome …. In this environment woman has no choice but to begin to look for a 'real me' beyond her body if she is going to in any way escape its containment. Her desire for radical freedom and autonomy is at odds with the body that keeps her grounded."

This "body that keeps her grounded" is really the heart of the issue for Mayer and countless other women, some well educated and some less so, as they seek to make sense of the complexity of their lives. Fortunately for Christian women, the body is quite definitively not an impediment, even as it creates profoundly distinctive challenges in our day when work of varying nature is so profoundly bifurcated. From the dawn of creation, Eve is uniquely blessed with work in the garden alongside Adam and also the possibility of the work of bearing children in her flesh. Both types of work precede the Fall. And while the Fall bears plenty of complications for all of us, in Mary we see the role of women redeemed as the fruit of her womb—God Incarnate—crushes the head of the serpent that first struck Eve's heel in the curse of Genesis 3.

For Christian women this is profoundly good news. It reminds us, both through the coherence of the biblical narrative and the wonder of the Incarnation, that God dignifies us in our flesh. It also reminds us that our vocation, our entire life lived in response to God's call across many different roles, circumstances, and responsibilities, can and does encompass the distinctive work of our bodies even when that work is done alongside other roles. My hope for Mayer and countless other women is that they can increasingly insist on honesty about the nature, constraints, and challenges of the various types of work they take up, while also providing ample grace to a generation that is increasingly seeking how to navigate dichotomous roles faithfully and coherently.

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Kate Harris is director of development at the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture. She is wife to a very good man and mother to their three young children.