Tag Archives: Eshet Chayil

women of valor

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It’s coming up on that time of year again. For some it can be a very joyous time. For others, it can be one of the worst struggles of the year. Strangely enough I’m talking about Mother’s Day. I remember for seven years of infertility, this was one of the most difficult Sunday’s in the church calendar. I even remember one year, shortly after a miscarriage, that my wife was even called upon to help hand out Mother’s Day gifts to the moms who were there that Sunday. And I imagine this Sunday can be difficult like that for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have lost your mother this year. Maybe you don’t get to be with your family. Perhaps you’ve never had the family you wished for. None of these things should make you feel less or even allow a church to overlook you in their festivities. If anything, Monther’s Day should be a celebration of women regardless of their stage in life or the identity by which they are known.

One of the most frustrating things to me as a male is the degree to which we as the church often reflect society in the means of which we ask our women to measure up. Sometimes, even on Mother’s Day, women in the church feel the need to evaluate themselves based on a rubric that I’m sure the Bible never intended. Why in the world a Hallmark Card holiday would bring about this type of self-evaluation, I don’t know…but the phenomenon exists all the same. One of the passages of scripture that often gets pulled out for this type of self-inventory is Proverbs 31:10-31. This passage of scripture is known traditionally among the Jewish people as Eshet Chayil or The Woman of Valor. And if we read it at face value it can be intimidating…can a woman really be expected to do all of these things? If this is the ruler that anyone is expected to measure themselves by then not only would our women fall short, but I’m pretty sure most of the men would as well.

Sometimes, though, it pays to seek out an understanding of a Jewish text from Jewish history. I know it sounds crazy. But when it comes to this passage, the Eshet Chayil, before every Sabbath, a husband would read/recite this poem to his wife to praise her for all that she is (not all that she has done). It wasn’t a score card…but an embellishment and adoration of all that she was and meant to her husband and family before they entered into the rest of Sabbath. It reads a lot different now. Hear these words as if in adulation from a husband to his wife,

“‘Many women act competently,
    but you surpass them all!’
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:29-30

And women of the church…this is who you are. When you enter through the doors of the sanctuary on Sunday morning, you are a woman of valor. When you find yourself worshiping although you are broken by years of infertility, you are a woman of valor. When you join the congregation in prayer although you’ve lost your own mother or even a child, you are a woman of valor. When you celebrate in the means of grace even though it seems you may never be called ‘mom’, you are a woman of valor. When you participate in the body of Christ, even when you feel misunderstood or undervalued, you are a woman of valor; and your worth is far greater than jewels.

 

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hey ladies…it’s okay

I think it’s safe to say that our industrialized Western society puts an undue amount of pressure on people. But if there’s one side of our society that bears a majority of those undeserved pressures, it is our women. They feel pressured to look a certain way, dress a certain way, keep their house a certain way, raise their children a certain way, perform in the job marketplace a certain way, cook a certain way, the list could go on forever…but can I say something to you today? It’s okay. You don’t have to measure up to any of these standards, because these in no way, shape or form contain your worth. Your worth is not defined by your house. Your worth is not defined by your kids…or even your ability or inability to have them. Your worth is not defined by your income or your ability to balance job and home. Your worth is not defined by your ability to cook or your appearance or anything else that can be quantified by a “women’s” magazine.

There was a recent hashtag trending on Twitter that was pretty discouraging to read: #thingschristianwomenhear. It was mind blowing to go through the 100’s of messages that we as the church deliver to women to make them feel less than or less valued. Fortunately a day or two into this phenomenon a new hashtag appeared: #thingschristianwomenshouldhear. These were messages, predominately from men, that attempted to redeem some of the hurtful and damaging rhetoric that has often been directed to women within the walls of the church or in the name of religion. Because let’s be honest; when it come’s to the reputation of the church and our ability to lift people up, there is always room for improvement.

Often times when it comes around to this time of the year (Mother’s Day) women in the church feel the need to evaluate themselves. Why in the world a Hallmark Card holiday would bring about this type of self-evaluation, I don’t know…but the phenomenon exists all the same. One of the passages of scripture that often gets pulled out for this type of self-inventory is Proverbs 31:10-31. This passage of scripture is known traditionally among the Jewish people as Eshet Chayil or The Woman of Valor. And if we read it at face value it can be intimidating…can a woman really be expected to do all of these things. But historically before every Sabbath, a husband would read this poem to his wife to praise her for all that she is (not all that she has done). It wasn’t a score card…but an embellishment and adoration of all that she was and meant to her husband before they entered into the rest of Sabbath. It reads a lot different now.

So ladies…may you be praised for who you are. May you not find yourself lacking because of what someone else thinks or because of how someone else is living their life or because of what some magazine or social media post says. After all, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30. May you find your worth and full acceptance in God and live out of that love and grace that you seek to embody it to those God has surrounded you with.


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