Another Look at Proverbs Thirty One

From the time I was pronounced as a bride, I have been admonished to live up to the character of this woman. Not that that is a bad thing, but it can be quite intimidating and daunting a task, even for a woman that feels guilty for resting. One of the most peaceful words of advice I have ever received regarding this woman, and by a mother of 4 and consummate wife, were these: “It’s important for us to remember, that this was over her lifetime, not in the course of one day.” Sighhhh. Can I tell you what a relief that was to a mom that was stressed to the limit trying to make every day look like a “successful” day as it lined up with that woman!

 

Then, yesterday, I was reading the Proverb again. Try as I might it always convicts me to be better, to do more, to give more, to love deeper. Only, as I was soaking in the gargantuan challenges, God whispered to my ear, “This is a look at My Bride.”

 

So I read it again, this time not as woman failing, but as the Bride of Christ striving to make my Groom proud. I challenge you to read it and do the same:

 

 

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
 She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

 

I’ve heard a lot of attitude about service lately. Some of us are of the mind that it doesn’t matter, that it shouldn’t drive our actions, and the smallest offering we give should be enough. We don’t want to be bothered in our selfishness to actually “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And, we don’t want to be treated as we treat others. I challenge us to think past ourselves. To see our “husband at the gates” as our Father in Heaven, our eternal Groom. Is He bragging on us? Is He, like with His beloved Job, able to point us out and say, “Look at him/her! Look how well they love me, how obedient they are to reach out to others, to serve with their whole hearts.”

 

Can He trust us with the work? Can He be assured that we are taking care of the affairs of the home while He is away? Do our actions and words prove that He is a good Father, a loving God, a generous and gracious Groom? I pray so. And, that is what I am living my life for…not to gain respect or admiration or the praise of others, but so that He is praised and respected and worshipped for the amazing One that He is!

 

I will do my best to live up to the character of the Proverbs 31 woman as a wife and mother, but I will give my all to be the Bride of Christ that is worth far more eternally than the accolades of any human being, because what I do in this life needs to mean more, do more, and inspire more to find the Groom that so desperately loves us all. My effort is not to gain His love, I have that without trying, my desire is to kneel at His feet with arms full of crowns that I did not attain on my own and hear the words, “Well done….enter your rest.”

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My Affection

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:25-26

Man. Jesus threw some doozies out there, and this one is no less controversial.

I’ve been reading “Not a fan.” by Kyle Idleman in the midst of flights and weddings and conquering Disney World in two days and supervising a ten year old daughter that knew better but still decided to bite into a neon glow bracelet and is now convinced her liver is radioactive and refereeing the latest sibling smack down before blood is drawn. I admit. It wasn’t easy with so much brain energy and physical fortitude required, but in the midst of all that chaos, this verse stood out.

Can I just say, that being a woman called into ministry is one of the hardest things in the world? Really. It’s right up there with the lion tamer and the “how sharp are these shark teeth” tester guys. (I mean, if there were such a job.) I could write a book on this impossible balance. It’s not easy. It’s hard. (I felt the redundancy there was necessary to prove my point.)

I love Jesus. Not a question. I love my family. Absolute fact. I will confess that if Jesus were in the flesh on this earth today, I would never leave His side. I would have never gotten married, had kids, or possibly gotten a bath…I would NEVER leave His side. Creepy? Maybe. But true. He is my first Love. I steal away with Him on picnics, talk to Him all day long, run every thought, plan, scenario by Him because I don’t want to ever feel disconnected from His plan, His purpose, His will for my life…which is most probably why I wasn’t meant to live when He walked on earth – the whole harvest and laborers ratio; plus, my kids are pretty darn cool and I have no doubt will eventually leave a distinguished mark upon this earth.

So why did that verse in Luke hit me so hard?

Because it’s not “cool” to love Jesus that much, to admit that you would choose Him over anything and everything in your life, given the choice. (Which just in case you are moments away from calling the men in white coats to haul me in let me state: I do not believe that Jesus asks us to make this choice, to choose Him and hate our kids or spouse or mom or dad or siblings. He simply asks us to choose Him. He provided those relationships and He did so with all such players in mind…but He asks that we love Him so much that in comparison our love for them doesn’t compare. Make sense?)

I will never forget the look of absolute disbelief my friend gave me when I admitted, “Losing my husband would be difficult, but it wouldn’t devastate me.” Now, in my defense, when I said this I was totally thinking about the significance and the absoluteness of the word “Devastate” – to ruin or destroy; I wasn’t thinking in an emotional sense of overwhelming grief. But, I was being completely honest, because (and this is where you might look at me weird and think I’ve flipped my switch) nothing and no one in this world holds enough significance in my life to destroy me. Depress me, upset me, hurt me, grieve me, or break my heart? Yes. But not destroy me. There is something about looking death in the face and meeting God’s love and grace that makes you realize that nothing is worth that again. Nothing.

Jesus is my Affection. Everything and everyone comes second to Him. We are told this is how it is supposed to be, what being a true disciple of Christ is, what relationship is all about…and yet, even the church criticizes those of us that think this way. (Unless you’re a priest or a nun, then you get a reprieve…well, kind of, because then they just think you are a closet pedophile or lesbian looking for cover in a habit or collar.)

“There is something wrong with you.” I’ve heard that before.

“Are you sure that you aren’t having an emotional affair with Jesus?” And my response was, “Is that even possible!?”

“You have some sort of misguided affection for your Saviour.” Because it seems to me that saying, “I would die for you” and then backing that up with actions seems just the right amount of affection for One that saved you…but maybe that is just me.

“You’re a woman…there should be a certain level of restraint even in your intimacy with Christ.” Wow. So the woman that admitted to me that she has so much difficulty with physical intimacy because of past abuse and misuse that she asks the Holy Spirit to love her husband through her and often lays naked before God in order to feel the purity of that state instead of the guilt and shame of before would probably be burned at the stake, and yet, I understand her. I understand that pain and that desperate need from a God that created her and has a compassion for her that never fails.

I’m a woman. A woman that loves Jesus. That gave my life up for Him. That has been spending my breath to give His back. Not because there is something wrong with me, or because I’m misguided or without restraint. But because He healed that which was wrong, He led me when I was completely off track, and He has taught me that His perfect Love casts out all fear…including the fear of losing someone that is most precious to me, or the insecurities of the looks that I get from others, the bitter gossip of those that don’t understand, and the lack of appreciation from those that haven’t experienced the intimacy that Christ’s Love affords.

I never want to be accused of choosing ministry (ie: work) over my spouse, my children, my family, and as a woman, a mother and a wife, the pressure of that is even stricter than on a man in ministry; however, I will always put my relationship with Christ first over any other role that I fill. Not to be separate but to be significant and inspirational, and if others can’t understand that, then they haven’t experienced the freedom that having Him first brings. Christ’s love affects me. And my affections are first for Him. Isn’t that what being a committed follower of Christ requires? According to Jesus, the red letter Voice, it is.