As a wife and a mom of a little one, I find my life full of messages that demand to define my womanhood & motherhood. If you're a woman, a mom, a working mom, a wife and such, the list of what type of woman you must be is so overwhelming. I've had seasons of life where I tried the whole staying at home mom thing because it was what everyone around me seemed to do and it felt like the christian thing to do. Some even gave me their opinions based on the bible as to why life from now on must be just that for me, and as much as I would LOVE to be able to stay home with my sweet little one and I even gave it a try, I found out that I was not capable of doing it. My unique personality, gifting and impatience drove me crazy craving to do more, not that i didn't have enough to do I did but I needed to add more. I know it may sound exhausting but to me being able to go out and work and come home and spend the 3-4 hours I have with my baby giving her my undivided attention and loving on her was so much better than hiding in the bathroom a few times a day, praying for nap time to be longer than 2 hours and not being able to leave the house until after my husband came home to help out. I felt trapped and I knew that wasn't for me. In that season the Lord taught me one thing, he taught me what it means to be a woman of God in my life for me and how I can honor him in this season of chaos and be joyful.
That's when I decided to study Proverbs 31 in depth and really look into what it means to be "the proverbs 31" woman we all are killing ourselves to become. I started asking God these questions: What does it mean to be a woman of Valor? Can a woman be a devout follower of Christ and be a strong woman? Why don't we see strength being celebrated in women in the church? Why don't we see women leaders in the church? Why do I have to wonder if it's biblical for me to go back to work after having my baby when everything within me wants to and I know plenty of followers of Jesus have done it? Why do I feel shame for wanting to? Why do I fear what others have to say about me when I'm speaking truth in love but FIRMLY? Why do I have to prove my intellect before entering a conversation with men in the church....why?
Reading Proverbs 31 in those few weeks and asking those questions allowed me to see the woman of valor, not the "good wife" "the virtuous woman" or the "quiet and gentle spirit" one I've always heard about but this woman who is fierce and strong. A woman who contributes to the household income but who fully handles her business at home, her kids are well loved and cared for, the heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of good and he praises her.
I especially love the parallel made about the city gates in vs. 23 & 31.
"Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land."
And "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
It shows how her influence on her husband and his success are well connected. This is not a timid and unmotivated woman, she's fierce and A BOSS LADY!
Learning about this strong, powerful, fierce, woman has been such a validation to how God has designed me and the cultural background He's given me to be the woman I am today. I am no where near this amazing woman I see in Proverbs 31 but I strive to be like her and see the gifts God has given me that gives me the strength to work towards being such a woman of Valor.
In a recent sermon I heard, I was reminded that the original word used in Proverbs 31 to describe the virtuous woman was a "Woman of Valor" or a "Woman of Strength". I thought it was very interesting how the original Hebrew word chayil which is pronounced HAAyil, is also a word used to describe God as a warrior in the bible. We see this woman of valor described in so many ways we typically separate and categorize. we usually hear in the church about the quiet and gentle spirited woman and in my mind she is the type of woman who is super patient and has the gift to hold her tongue when in distress and I get the message I should strive to be like her. Then we hear about the strong willed woman and the way she's typically described is as the one who wears the pants at home and doesn't take no for an answer and I should distance myself from her. But this woman of Valor in Proverbs 31 seems like she's neither. Being a woman of Valor is not a personality contest, it's a character trait that is expressed through work, mentorship, creativity & wisdom. She is strong & a hard worker ... She manages her house well and ownes a business that she runs effectively...She is also tender and a nurturer at home. We see in that chapter both her husband and children called her blessed, it also mentions how she rises early in the morning and makes food, how everyone is clothed for winter and how she laughed at the days ahead, meaning she's well prepared. To the outside world her household is well respected, because of the way she carried herself her husband was a respected man at the city gates, people knew who he was, he was the man who was strong enough to lead such a woman of valor with gentleness, respect and wisdom. So why are we discouraged from becoming all of that? Especially for me, I've wondered why can't I be all and celebrate all that God has given me as a strength. Why must I be put down for having an opinion, and why do people act surprised when they find out I'm a really good cook. Why can't I be both?
Chayil resonates with me so much because the same word means strength in Amharic, which is my native language. I grew up being told I was Hailegna :) they meant to tell me I was stubborn but I didn't mind. My dad always encouraged me to think for myself and my mom always asked me to make a decision based on what would honor the Lord so I never felt incapable of making up my own mind. I knew I can ask hard questions and bring it to God's word and find an answer. It doesn't mean I'm never wrong, in fact I find that I am often, but God has allowed me to surround myself with amazing people who fact check me, and lovingly rebuke me which has served me so well. I wouldn't be able to write and dare to speak into tough topics If I didn't have the covering of my husband which usually is a series of grueling questions that makes me check my heart and invite the Holy Spirit in to take over my pride. But, my dependency on the Lord and my independency as a person are two strengths the Lord has built in me as I pursue to be a woman of Valor.
What does it mean to be a woman of Valor today? How do women lead when most of our lives we've been told to follow. When we've been taught our greatest achievement might be becoming a wife and a mother. Don't get me wrong those are such great gifts from the Lord but it's easy to make them our idol and identity if we don't know what being a true woman of Valor is. I think being a woman of strength is being complete as is, whether single or married, she is God's, she knows her purpose in life and practices it daily. She is a builder, a leader, a manager, an entrepreneur, an engineer, a doctor, a writer, an activist, a truth teller, a teacher, etc... most importantly she is a disciple of Jesus Christ. She follows the heart of her savior and fearlessly steps into the unknown. She loves deeply, cares deeply, fights deeply for what she believes in and she honors the Lord deeply.
This is the type of woman I see in Proverbs 31, it's so liberating to me to read God's word and grasp the whole picture. As I submit to the teaching of the bible and the order of God's creation, I find the keys that unlock the beauties of being a woman, a warrior, a builder, and a woman of Valor. To me I've found it in investing my time making disciples who make disciples, being a voice to the oppressed, creating space for my passions to freely be expressed and used for the Kingdom, loving and serving my family in the unique ways God has shaped us. I've learned that a woman of valor has no time to compare herself and time with someone else's home. She's too busy fulfilling the plenty of ways God has called her to serve him. She's fighting the enemy's lies that try to creep in around all the areas God has called her to follow him. She's too busy pleasing the Father that she doesn't have time to wait for people's approval. She is unapologetically content in fulfilling the role she's received from God himself. She is fierce and she is content.