Thursday, May 16, 2013

Proverbs 31: Being Eshet Chayil- A Woman of Valor

Proverbs 31 (NRVS)

1 The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him: 2 What, my son? What, son of my womb? What, son of my vows? 3 Give not your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; 5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. 8 Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy. 10 A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

I struggle with a Super Mom alter ego. I place unrealistic expectations on myself and on what I can accomplish in a day with a toddler in toe. I berate myself inwardly when I do not have a perfectly clean house, when I do not cook dinner on a week night, when we are running low on groceries, when the laundry is backed up, when the dog needs a bath, when I forget to send a birthday card, etc. The list of things I expect myself to do and be is long and my days feel very short. I feel overwhelmed and I get frustrated. Sometimes get so busy trying to fulfill the unrealistic expectations I have for myself that those expectations get in the way of my relationship with God.

On Sunday, which happened to be Mother’s Day, my pastor spoke on this passage and on the Jewish tradition of Eshet Chayil; which in Hebrew translates to Woman of Valor. In Proverbs 31:10-31 many scholars believe that this is the description of an ideal woman, wife, and mother. Some scholars believe that this is an allegory for the sacred text: Torah.  Whether this passage is an allegory or a definitive expectation it is worthy of study and reflection. The woman in the passage, at first glance may seem to be a woman who is perfect but on a deeper reading it is really about a woman who puts God first in all she does. She is a woman who works hard for her family and does what she can for them but keeps God first and foremost in her heart and mind. She is able to do and be all of these things because she puts God first.

It also got me to thinking. Where do all of these things I expectations come from? Are they images of womanly perfection as presented by media or society? Are they expectations I have created on my own out of a personal desire to be perfect? Do they come from family, friends, or my husband? This passage helped me to understand that many of expectations I put on myself are driven by outside forces like the media or society. They are not Biblically based or have any grounding in my faith. I realized that these expectations of perfection I have been holding myself to are not the same standard that God has created for me.  

After spending a few days thinking about this passage it reminded me of the song Legacy byNichole Nordeman. Being a mother is about leaving a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ. Investing in my family is about investing in the Kingdom of God. It is not about having a perfectly clean house or ironed sheets. The expectations we place on ourselves does not always bring us closer to God. I want to be closer to God. I do not want to be called Super Mom, I want to be called Eshet Chayil- Woman of Valor  

Questions for Discussion

1.    Is this a realistic expectation for women/wives/mothers? Why or why not?
2.    Looking at the passage, what qualities do you share with Godly expectation for an ideal woman?  
3.    What qualities do you strive to possess? How will you go about making that change in your character?
4.    What household task or chore are you hardest on yourself if you don’t complete it regularly? Why do you think you are so hard on yourself about it? What can you do to stop being so harsh with yourself about this chore/task?
5.    Do you feel like you get enough praise/affirmation/appreciation? How do you think your husband/family would respond if you told them that you needed more praise from them?
6.    What can we do support each other as women/wives/mothers? To provide each other with encouragement, love, and affirmation?  

  1. Additional Resources:

I found and printed the 10 Virtues of of a Proverbs 31 Woman from the web page A Virtuous Woman . I this page also gives you additional scriptures for each of the 10 virtues. There are also several other resources at this website for the Christian Mama. 

Here is a link to Nicole Noredman's song Legacy:

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