Earlier this year, I told you that if you read Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, your life will be bettered to the millionth percent. Well, AYOBW did worlds of wonder in my spirit, including in the area of feminism. And tonight my dear friend Kelly led our core group (our church’s term for small group) in a study of Proverbs 31 through Rachel Held Evans’ eyes. (In AYOBW, the Proverbs 31 discussion may be found in Chapter 4.) Though I had already read, adored, and been changed by this chapter in AYOBW, Kelly brought it to life all over again for me tonight. And here I am sharing it with you because it’s just too good and spirit-changing and FemFest-y for me not to share.
What is Proverbs 31? It is a 22-line acrostic poem. It is an ode to a woman, a song sung over her because of who she is. Even today, many Jewish husbands will sing this poem over their wives, praising them, on the Sabbath. They sing it regularly, and unconditionally. Why? Because, as opposed to common conception, Proverbs 31 is not prescriptive; it is not a passage that gives instruction to women as to what standards they must meet in order to be godly and worthy of praise. Rather, it is descriptive of one woman who, according to the original Hebrew, was eshet chayil: a woman of valor. It is, then, a song of praise sung over a woman whose very being spilled out valor: bravery, courage, strength. We read the specific things that she did and was praised for, and we often think that that is the woman we must be, the “Proverbs 31 woman.” But what we do not understand is that Proverbs 31 is not an instruction manual for godliness. In fact, the only instructive part of Proverbs 31 is found in (ironically) verse 31, and this verse is directed toward men, not toward women. Every other bit of this poem uses warrior language simply to praise a valorous woman for who she is. The conclusion? As Kelly and Rachel Held Evans tell us, “The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it – with valor.”
So, women, know that it is okay to be a fierce warrior. In fact, it’s even godly. Know that it is okay to be gentle and quiet too. In fact, it’s even godly. Because it’s not what we do but how we do it that matters. May we live valorously. And may we call out to each other, “Eshet chayil!” when we do. We all do, after all, in our own way, and that is beautiful, that is godliness. What freedom!
(Just a reminder that this post was adapted from Chapter 4 of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood and from Kelly’s core group lesson. Please, go read AYOBW. RHE goes into much more detail than I just did and says it all better too.)
If you’d like to participate in Day Three of FemFest, feel free to use the below prompt as a guideline – and to comment on this post with your thoughts! As you can tell, I didn’t follow the prompt at all. So, just participate in general if you’d like! 🙂 And be sure to click over here to check out the Day Three link-up.
“What surprised you this week? What did you take away from the discussion? What blog posts did you find particularly helpful? What questions do you still have?”
February 27 Joy Dare: 3 Ugly-Beautiful Gifts
1. Living the mundane with dear ones
2. Giant to-do lists . . . and then finishing them
3. Little sleep (for the trade-off of great joy)