Last year I read Rachel Held Evans thought provoking book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. In it she discusses the Woman of Valor, otherwise known as the Proverbs 31 Woman. I also read an article she had written where she outlines 3 little known things about Proverbs 31. I found it so very encouraging, as honestly, sometimes I felt like I would just never measure up to such an impossible standard for the ideal wife.
1. Proverbs 31 is a poem. The author is essentially showing us what wisdom looks like in action. It is an acrostic poem, so the first word of each verse begins with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet in succession. Like any good poem, the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often-overlooked glory of the everyday.
2. The “Target Audience” of Proverbs 31 is Men. She explained that she first learned this from a Jewish friend Ahava, who told her that in Jewish culture, it’s not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. They memorize it, Ahava said, to sing it as a song of praise to the women in their lives—their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends. Ahava’s husband sings Proverbs 31 to her at every Sabbath meal.
3. Proverbs 31 Celebrates Valor. The first line of the Proverbs 31 poem—“a virtuous woman who can find?”—is best translated, “a woman of valor who can find?” The Hebrew is eshet chayil, “woman of valor”. To make this fact even more fun, Ahava explained that she and her friends cheer one another on with the blessing, celebrating everything from promotions, to pregnancies, to acts of mercy and justice, to battles with cancer with a hearty “eshet chayil”! Think of it as something like the Jewish “you go girl.”
For me, this was a revolutionary discovery when I realized, I didn’t need to check off all the traits mentioned in Pr. 31, but rather I needed to embrace it as a new way of thinking…it is a pattern helping us to see that everything we do as women, for the Lord, in this life…is praiseworthy. We are not designed to copy the woman from Proverbs 31, “copying any other woman, even one from the Bible, is always,,, a bad idea.” (RHE) We are free to be ourselves, in Christ.
You see, I believe that we empower and affirm others when we bless them. Often through the year at the Moms Group at our church, I’ve felt like yelling this phrase out to many the women as they shared their hopes, dreams, struggles, fears and lives… but refrained, as I couldn’t explain the context of why I was randomly yelling in Hebrew.
To the ladies of Bethany Moms Group 2016-17…
To me, you are all Proverbs 31 women – women who bless your families with their energy and creativity each day. Valor isn’t about what you do, but how you do it. (RHE)
You stayed home when you were really looking forward to going out… to nurse sick kids?…Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!
You hosted your mother in law for Mother’s day when you are like 10 months pregnant? Eshet Chayil!
You finished your university education? Eshet Chayil!
You got your baby to sleep in her own bed…at night? Eshet Chayil!
You got out of the house with a dish to share, dressed with makeup and a kid or two in tow? Eshet Chayil!
You made chocolate covered strawberries for snack with a toddler and an infant at home? Eshet Chayil!
You aren’t afraid to cry and show the world that your soft heart is touched by so much? Eshet Chayil!
You are shy, but too hungry for more of God to hold back from asking the difficult questions? Eshet Chayil!
You decided to host a community dinner to bless the people around you who wouldn’t get a special dinner? Eshet Chayil!
You gave someone a ride who it was inconvenient and out of your way to drive? Eshet Chayil!
You got your closets all organized! Eshet Chayil!
You learned to make a meal plan, modify a recipe or just simply made dinner instead of buying out? Eshet Chayil!
You learned to make gifts to give to save money but still be a blessing? Eshet Chayil!
You moved to a new country, city, house or church? Eshet Chayil!
You took on work outside your home to contribute to your families finances? Eshet Chayil!
You conquered Mount Laundry today? Eshet Chayil!
You decided to go back to school and start a new career path? Eshet Chayil!
You didn’t yell when you’re daughter spilled fruit punch on your new pants, at church? Eshet Chayil!
You survived the longest labour in recorded history? Eshet Chayil!
You took your kids to the park and the house was a disaster, but the sun was shining so you just went? Eshet Chayil!
You are walking alongside someone battling cancer? Eshet Chayil!
You assisted a family who is fostering new children? Eshet Chayil!
You fasted during lent, while cooking meals for the rest of your family? Eshet Chayil!
You got up to pray, when all you wanted to do was sleep? Eshet Chayil!
You went for a walk instead of eating cake? Eshet Chayil!
You bought a birthday cake rather than make one from scratch to save time and sanity? Eshet Chayil!
You re-learned grade 7 math so you could tutor your son? Eshet Chayil!
You took care of your kids all week with a sprained ankle? Eshet Chayil!
You keep showing up when you’re an introvert who’d rather stay home and play video games? Eshet Chayil!
You took care of babies and littles while their moms went to a Bible Study each week? Eshet Chayil!
You are part of an amazing team of women who run this Mom’s Group each week, despite having busy families and lives and pray for and plan these amazing mornings? Eshet Chayil!
Thank you for reading today, and thank you to all the Eshet Chayil’s in my life… you are innumerable and invaluable and immensely loved.