She pulled weeds out of the front garden as I sat in the grass behind her, giving words to thoughts that had been plaguing me. The words were wrapped up in emotion that I was too tired to express properly. Two days earlier I’d felt the weight of them on my heart but had no idea where it would be safe to speak them. I called my friend – a wife, mother and children’s minister – and simply asked if she’d ever felt how I did at that moment. My voice cracked.
She said, “Yes. I have. Do you need to come over?”
It was the middle of college semester but I said yes, packed a bag, and caught a bus to my friend’s home. I was greeted by cheery children and hugs from both my friends. It is a privilege to be able to sit on their couch and simply listen to what happens that night in their small group. These moments are among my most treasured – when this family have invited me into their ordinary moments.
My friend is strong. She is beautiful. As I sat there speaking to her, and listening to her stories, I couldn’t help but smile because there is a camaraderie between us that is borne from mutual understanding and too much chocolate.
There are cultural ideas of beauty that I too often buy into and find myself wanting to be skinnier, more mild, more feminine simply to fit into them. My hair is too curly. My skin too freckle covered. My personality too brash. Yet women like my friend are what I think of what I think about what it looks like to be a valuable, beautiful woman.
Proverbs 31 has always stood as a sort of impossible standard to me; a passage to avoid because it just made me a little bit uncomfortable; a bar set too high. During the holidays I was reading Rachel Held Evan’s ” A Year Of Biblical Womanhood” and was relieved to find out that someone else feels the same about Proverbs 31. As Rachel’s view changed, she explained why. Proverbs 31 is a blessing, it turns out. It’s a blessing! Not an impossibly high standard that functions to curse us poor women who can’t sew to save their lives! Jewish men sing it to their wives at every Shabbat meal. Their sewing skill is irrelevant to the song. Their ability to wake early is nothing to do with it. It is sung because these women in their lives are strong and beautiful and God has made them in such a way that their worth is not to do with anything but their standing in God’s eyes. They call it the eshet chayil, which translated means something like “woman of valour.” Now I want to proclaim this about all those women I know who have shown such beauty and strength… eshet chayil!
Okay. I’m not a Jew. I don’t plan to convert to Judaism. But that amazes me. Something that I thought was a to-do list is a blessing. The friend who asked if I needed to come over, she is an eshet chayil! My Hebrew study partner, who works hard to make posters of vocabulary words so that she can do well in college and go on to translate the Bible for others, she is an eshet chayil! A woman who lives across the ocean to me and yet prays over me in my darkest moments, in spite of her own darkness, she is eshet chayil!
And I guess the point of this is to say that my idea of beauty is changing. I want to spend less time matching a list of conditions of beauty and simply walk in what God would have for me, and in that find beauty because it is He that makes all things beautiful. God is the centre. Christ gives us our worth. And in Him, in him… we are all eshet chayil.