This year, Mother's Day set me thinking--not just about how much, or what about, I appreciate my own mother (and that's a lot, to both!)--but also on what it means to be a godly woman.
What defines a 'woman after God's heart'--because that's what I need to examine my life for, and work towards.
The classic Bible passage on a godly woman is Proverbs 31 (yes, there's Titus 2 in the New Testament, too; but there's already so much material in Proverbs 31; so maybe next Mother's Day...)--for good reason.
Years ago (so many years ago that I can't find that post now, or I'd include the link!) I read a little sharing by Jamie Delainie on this passage, which taught me to read making applications to our modern lifestyle and world.
(Which is how we should be reading our Bibles--especially the Old Testament, which may seem hopelessly distant and un-relatable otherwise. Read with a mind to examine what is our modern equivalent, how this root-sin manifests itself today in our world, culture, and lives.)
I found my old notes on her post (my notes on her notes, actually) and did another rereading of Proverbs 31 myself; and slowly it came together...
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She is trustworthy AND capable. Not one without the other.
She is someone to rely on.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She is free from commitment issues. Her love is self-sacrificial, not self-centered--she strives to bless others through her relationships, instead of treating them as means to meet her own needs.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She is a diligent worker (this is repeated to become a main theme in the passage)
as well as a cheerful and willing one.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She is an early riser (a lifestyle trait which is valuable not in itself--aka it's not the time we get up so much as the fact that it reflects our hearts and how we spend our lives; and it enables us to do more.)
She provides for everyone and everything under her care/responsibility, all those who are dependent on her, even if they're lowly. (think a bit about YOUR equivalent of the OT 'maidservants'; your pets? Or even your plants?)
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She has learned to think logically and make wise decisions, not just about regarding herself and her own resources/abilities, but even about others.
This could be how you manage your company's finances and needs, your education and the developing of your mind and talents; or your family's budget.What's yours?
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
I really liked Jamie's interpretation for this verse--she maintains a standard of health. Knowing that it is important because her body is a gift from God, and because it enables her to work and live well.
And we can see it in another light too; she purposefully equips and trains herself for the work that is hers. Her enthusiasm for her work shows even in her preparation for it.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
She knows her own value in a good way--no false humility, which is really a twisted form of pride.
Neither, however, does it cause her to grow complacent and slack.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
Again, she works hard. But she works with initiative and vision--not merely meeting needs. She seeks out useful and worthwhile work, with a sense for both the essential as well as the nice-to-have's.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
She is generous. She seeks to do good, to share and to bless others from the resources, abilities, or surplus that God has given to her.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
With beauty and love, which transcend duty, she takes care of her home as well as the people she shares it with--and, though it may surprise some of you, herself.
She dresses with dignity (think modesty) and beauty. She doesn't lose sight of the gift of femininity, or appreciation of beauty as expressed in different ways--her individuality
isn't stifled or sacrificed by all her serving and labour, but instead is complemented.
Of course, above that she first focuses on inner beauty... (v 25)
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She enables and complements her husband's work, by doing her own well and supporting him in his (which are separate yet also intrinsically linked!)
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
Again, she labors--but she does this with an eye for beauty and she labors on good, worthwhile things which benefit others and do them good.
(Remember, just because we're giving our blood sweat and tears doesn't mean the thing we give them for is automatically good. Stop and think; is what you're laboring for worthwhile?)
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She is distinguished first by her outstanding inner beauty,not by how pretty she looks or how well she dresses. This is a much-needed balance for v22; many of us tend to stray to one extreme or the other, and harm ourselves as a result.
And this is reflected in her attitude towards the future--one of joy and confidence and hope. If she has invested her life and efforts in the right things, she looks forward joyfully to their fruits without fear (of aging; of losing popularity; and the list goes on.)
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Perhaps one of the most badly-needed reminders--because one of the easiest to forget.
She watches over her words--they are kind, wise, and useful.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
She does not tolerate idleness in her own life, and she does not encourage it in others-- whether simply by the example and influence of her own life, or/and by purposeful instruction (such as mothers to their children, mentors to their proteges)
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
She is honored by the people closest to her. Her worth, and the blessing she is to others, is acknowledged by--and this is the greatest test--the people closest to her, who actually live with her. It is easier to be a blessing to say, orphans in a faraway country you seldom or never see, than to be a blessing to the people you live with, whose imperfections you know as well as they know yours.
This also reflects the indisputable goodness of her character and works, by their fruit.
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Once again, in a world and a culture that--here, at least, the Old Testament is not that un- relatable--emphasizes appearance and popularity as what women should chase after, the reminder of what ultimately matters in man and woman alike.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Stop and think a bit--for once not about yourself, but about the women you know who have faithfully lived out their love for God, in whose lives you can see these traits of a godly woman. Appreciate their labors. Honor them.
So thank you, all the wonderful women I know in whose lives I see these traits; and most of all, my very own Motherest for being such a true, real-life example of a godly woman.
Diligence and self-sacrificial love have both been significant characteristics of your life, as well as a lively delight in beauty and goodness. My prayer is that I will learn from your life and be like you--an instrument of God and an example to others. .
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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