One of the most amazing gifts we have in the Scriptures is its timelessness and never ending unfolding of truth. Passages that I may have read a bazillion times can suddenly come alive, be a balm, shed light, convict, and nourish in completely fresh ways.
It’s why we can read it again and again and again and again and still be shaped and formed by it. We’re told in Hebrews that the Word is alive and active. We’re constantly changed by it as our understanding is deepened and matured.
An amazing gift right?
I think if you spend anytime in Christian circles you are at least somewhat familiar with the Proverbs 31 woman even if it is to just note that you fall somewhere between her and Madea. Or maybe your only acknowledgment is a nod to what you can never hope to attain or what is an old fashioned reminiscing not really applicable for today’s modern woman. In my own particular reformed circles it is a passage that most of us have a great familiarity with but over the last several months I have been bumping it around and seeing and learning new things about it. New to me because you might very well read this and think, “What? You didn’t realize that?” so, yes, new thoughts for me. And even if they aren’t new to you I hope you will be encouraged to dig into it a little deeper and see what nuggets you can mine…because they’re there for you as well.
Before I get into that though I want to bring up an old truth from this passage that shines just as bright and beautiful in my eyes as it always has. The passage, a childhood lesson from mother to son, being recounted begins with, “A virtuous woman who can find?” Sometimes the word excellent is translated virtuous but what I really love about the word is that it is used in other places in Scripture in relation to a soldier prepared and ready for battle, men of valor. In essence from the very beginning the picture is being given not of some fair damsel who is everything that is chaste and softly feminine in a Thomas Kinkade~esque manner but rather a woman who is a kind of domestic warrior. I love how Peter Leithart speaks of verse 25 painting a picture of the laughter being that of a victorious warrior. When you read the passage with that in mind it strips the ho-hummness just doing my chores mentality away, doesn’t it?
Okay, on to the first and rather obvious point I should have really recognized a lot sooner. To be fair though I knew it in thought but recently the ramifications of understanding this point and how it affects my understanding just clicked into a more clear focus. In case that doesn’t really make any sense keep reading. Hopefully it will.
So I knew the passage was a mother’s instruction as for what kind of wife her son should be looking for. But a few months back I really honed in on what that meant. That industrious victorious heroine is to already be in existence for him to seek out. Meaning, and this is the obvious part, we don’t magically become the Proverbs 31 woman after we marry. Nor are we to only strive to be her after the wedding band is on our finger because frankly, waiting until that moment creates a rather steep learning curve! We are to be exhibiting that character, those qualities, beforehand so that as a godly young man looks for a wife he will indeed find the woman whose worth is above rubies. I don’t know why that has struck me so sharply lately but it does. Maybe it’s because the vast majority of time that the passage is referenced it is directed at those of us who are already wives and mothers. Or maybe it’s because my two oldest daughters have entered into the phase of life where life where as single women they are exhibiting this kind of fruit. This passage is as much directed to single women as it is to married ones and it can be helpful to consider that, not just for our own daughters in our households, but also within our church communities.
The most recent way this passage has worked on me is found right at the very end.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
I’m a visual person and I have long held an image in my head that I want to take of my children. They are the real and lasting work of my hands, the fruit that I tend and cultivate daily and I want to take a portrait of them in front of a gate as a reminder to me that my work in them and on their behalf is a public reflection of my faithfulness to being the kind of domestic warrior we are called to be. The idea is humbling to me because I know where I have fallen short and failed but God is still gracious and faithful to take the work of my hands and bless it in the lives of my children and to see that induces a wealth of gratitude.
But recently I have come to realize that while seeing my children as the fruit of my hands is well and good, I also need a more present understanding and realization of that verse.
Last week Rob had Abby and Claire in Texas at a summer camp which meant that my normal daily time constraints were lifted because, you know, he wasn’t going to be coming home at 5:30 in the afternoon which meant I could be a little more relaxed in getting things done and by when. The change of pace was nice and one of the few side benefits to him not being home. (Maybe the only benefit.)
In a facebook group that I belong to several women shared posts that started with the phrase, “The fruit of my hands today…” and then either a picture or a description of what work they had accomplished in that day.
And I loved it. Instead of just marking things off my to do list I started looking at the result of the work I had put my hand to and it fanned the flame a bit in tending my home. To be honest, I love being home. I love being able to be home and do all the stuff that the feminist society says is demeaning and prevents me from reaching my full potential.
But sometimes I can get lost in the day to day mundane work and forget just how powerful and liberating my sphere is. I can forget to enjoy and savor the work itself.
So I have decided to challenge myself each day. To look back and see what fruit was produced. Sometimes I think it will be immediate and clear when things are neat and tidy or freshly organized. Other times I think it will be the visual of well prepared soil for a work being done in the lives of the people around me.
It will be the work of my hands and the work of my heart and mind.
And I want to value each task knowing that even as I tend the work I am given He is at work tending my soul, faithful to complete what He has begun.
What is the fruit of your hands this day?