Monday, April 02, 2012

Her Children Call Her Blessed

I wrote this paper for my Hebrew Poetry & Wisdom class a few weeks ago and got 10/10 for it.

The author of Proverbs 31:10-31 gives a model for women to be excellent wives and mothers. The title of these verses in the ESV is “The Woman Who Fears the Lord”, setting a standard right at the beginning. There are a number of qualities and attributes listed, and then the title is echoed in verse 30 saying that such a woman is to be praised. This passage has been used countless times as a checklist for heartsick bachelors and young maidens hoping to catch the eye of a potential spouse. The problem is, today’s society has discredited many of the items listed and has made men and women believe that beauty, above all else, is the key to happiness. While these attributes are seemingly hard to come by, they are not unattainable. I have seen all of them in a few women I know, and more specifically in my own mother. I was inspired to write a poem parallel to what I saw in her using this passage for mother’s day in 2006 (copy attached).
            As I myself have grown in the years since, I have come back to Proverbs 31 numerous times as a reminder of the standard to which I am held as a woman of God. At times, the expectation has seemed daunting and impossible, and at others an inspiration that has spurred on changes and hopefully improvements to my character. Admittedly, I am not an early riser unless forced, I have no one but myself to cook for, which is unsatisfying, and I have never mastered sewing or farming. However, this year alone I have begun to learn what it means to fear the Lord and certain ways and actions in which to present myself in a way that honors God. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is a guideline of the type of woman I hope and aspire to be like when it is time for me to take on the role of wife and mother.
            I have been blessed in having been taught scripture from a young age and to have a set standard of something more than the empty, materialistic happiness the world presents. Not only has the world’s perception of a successful woman been completely turned backwards to that of the biblical standards and calling, it has made marriage something easy to get out of rather than to be worked on and cherished. Divorce has become a quick fix to marital dissatisfaction, and is hard to ignore by statistics, celebrities, and the effects of broken family dynamics. Verses 10-12 and 23 speak of the blessing on her husband’s life as a result of her noble character. It is wonderful to think of such a woman who, in her meekness exudes strength that is noticed by the elders of the town, yet doesn’t overstep her husband’s authority and role in the marriage.
            The art and beauty of knowing how to wisely run a household that is not only peaceful, but brings profit, has greatly been lost in our present culture. It has become acceptable and expected for women to seek work outside of the house, and we are met with derision if we aim to be “simple” housewives. Often circumstances call for both spouses to have jobs, but it is evident in history that if as young women we learn practical skills we can be successful at home while instilling Godly values into our children. This goes against so much of what the feminist movement of the 20’s and 30’s fought for, and yet I believe so much good could be restored if we could return to the biblical model. Not merely to stay home cooking, cleaning and raising children, or sending them off to daycare, but to work diligently, willingly, using our skills to supplement and support our husband’s hard work.
            Unfortunately, this is not the case for most women and is passed over as some ancient fairy tale of a super woman. It has been viewed through an over-romanticised lens so that at a young age we are led to believe that women like this are few and far between. A woman of this calibre would be completely out of the context of today’s society and fast paced culture that we fail to even think it could be possible. On the other hand, they are out there; women who fear the Lord, make wise decisions for the good of their families, and do not give way to idle living.

Proverbs 31 Woman
She chooses wool and cotton
and sets the knitting needles to work.
She awakes in the night
and prays for her family and coworkers.
She sees potential in the dirt
and a garden grows from her insight.
She opens her arms to the poor
and her hands and heart to the needy.
She does not fear the snow;
she has clothed her family in warmth.
She has quilted a blanket for each bed
and their warmth is always appreciated.
She is clothed in fine fabric
and is admired by all for her youthfulness.
She makes clothing and toys
and sells them at the market for a fair price.
She provides others with her wares
and the world applauds her creativity.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks in kindness and wisdom
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She conducts her household with efficiency
and is not caught in idleness.
Let her children stand and bless her
and acknowledge her good works.
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
These are the words we praise her with.
Although outer beauty may fade,
the radiant light will shine forever.
This is a woman we should praise
for she fears and trusts the Lord in everything.
No earthly trinket can express
how much you mean to me.
I can only attempt to tell you
what an inspiration you have been.
To me and the world
you fulfill the woman of noble character.
So here’s to you, my true Proverbs 31 woman,
my mom.
Written May 14, 2006

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reflections of a Cafe Experience

This evening I went with my roommate to a local coffee shop to get some homework done. I got very little work done, but that's not what this is about. There were only a few other people in the shop, and after settling in and enjoying a few sips of my caramel macchiato, I couldn't help but overhear two women's conversation who were sitting next to me. I really couldn't help it because they had no discretion for volume, language or content. From what I could gather, they knew each other well, but it seemed like they hadn't seen each other for some time. They discussed jobs, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, family, and eventually began to talk about their struggles with mental illnesses.
I was shocked and slightly discouraged at their viewpoints, which were clearly from a non-Christian, and terribly hopeless sense. One thing that they said is they remembered growing up with their individual disorders and how utterly alone they felt, which I completely understand. Their families didn't know about their struggles and at the time it was polite to remain silent. Another point that saddened me was one said "Depression is a lot more common and seems to be catching on" as if it were a new trend. It saddened me because I know how true it is. Depression seems to be on the rise, and is emerging in people younger than ever before in history. It could be that society has become more open about the issue of depression and suicide, which is good, but I feel can be very dangerous in causing its appearance to be chic and modern. Please hear me when I say that depression or thoughts of suicide are not something to be ignored, covered up, or overlooked. Because it is more acceptable in society to admit a struggle with depression, help is more readily available and experts are more educated on how to help in these situations. I urge you to seek help if you are feeling hopeless, worn out, or have any thoughts of suicide. I promise you that you are worth it. The battle won't be easy, but it is worth the fight to live.
I have been back in my dorm for over an hour, and their conversation has stuck with me and I felt the need to unravel some of my thoughts. Like I said, it saddened me to hear them speaking from such a hopeless perspective. I have battled with depression and anxiety for 11 years and yet I am overjoyed with the knowledge that I have the tools and support to overcome it on a daily basis. The journey I've been on has included late night phone calls to friends just to stop the harmful thoughts or actions, years of being on and off (currently off) of medication, countless friends and family praying for me and encouraging me, months of counsel from professionals and pastors, and opportunities to share my story with others who I may not even realize are going through the same thing. Through all the years I have become very open and unashamed of my sad (pun totally intended) little brain that can't quite decide which chemicals to produce. For me, it is worth the risk of being judged by an individual in order that they might grasp even a grain or a whole truckload of the hope and joy that I have found.
It is true and undeniable that my hope is wrapped intricately in my faith and the love of my savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. I am so confident in this that I have those three words, Faith, Hope and Love, tattooed on my wrists (Faith and Hope as an ambigram) which provides a good opportunity to share with those curious enough to ask about my ink. Most times it is brushed off as a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:13, and often I'm happy to leave it at that because that's usually as far as the level of interest goes. As I said, I am open to deeper questions about the meaning behind the words and always know I have the choice to share as much or as little as I am comfortable with. See, the counseling worked in making me assertive and confident!
To wrap this all up, there is hope. Please don't be afraid or ashamed to seek help. You are not alone. You are not broken or defective and there are options and ways to live with and overcome daily the darkness of depression. I still have bad days or sometimes weeks, but each day I get through is a victory in my eyes. I can now see and know that I am stronger than depression, and even when I am at my weakest, I have confidence in knowing that Jesus is stronger and has overcome every disease.