She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs with no fear of the future.
To the mom in the trenches of motherhood with young children Proverbs 31 seems like a long ugly list just waiting to point out our shortcomings. When you’re sitting on your couch with a crying baby in your arms, spit up on your sleeve, food on your shirt, hair in a greasy sideways ponytail, and you’re not sure when the last time your showered was, the thought of being a Proverbs 31 woman is the farthest thing from your mind. And if by chance someone brings up that passage you’re likely to cringe and recoil into your oversized sweatpants. Your sink is full of dirty dishes, your inbox is overflowing, there’s a load of laundry on your machine that you washed three days ago and you’ve successfully forgotten to take it out (though you’ve remembered to start the wash for good measure at least twice by now). And one day, one extra chaotic day, you snap. (Probably shortly after you’ve come home from church on a Sunday after you sat in the nursery with your tiny child again and not heard a single sentence from the sermon for what will have seemed like eternity). You’ll long for those days when you would sit quietly meditating on God’s word. Those days when you could pray in the quiet of your home. Those days when you dreamed of working overseas to serve in an orphanage, or build homes, or supply people with fresh water- you know- the important stuff?! You’ll come home, quietly stifle your tears while you plop sandwich meat on some bread for lunch, then excuse yourself to collapse on your bed in full on sobs.
In aguish the plea goes out to God. “Why aren’t you giving me more time to serve you?! If I’m suppose to be doing Kingdom work, then when and how do I fit it in between nose wipes, bathtime, and paying bills? How is rocking this child all.day.long. of any importance to life?!”. You’ll wonder when, WHEN is God going to call you into ministry to do something important for him. When will this frantic season of mundane motherhood be done? And, at the very least, you’ll wonder when you’ll be able to sit alone with your Father in the quiet, bible in hand and just be.
Did I describe you?
I’m fairly certain I just described every mother with small children.
As I read through Proverbs 31 I saw a slightly different picture of who this woman is to be. I also saw who she isn’t. In the twenty-one verses that describe this woman, no where does it say she sits quietly for hours deep in prayer with God, no where does it say she leaves behind the mundane and goes to serve in a foreign country. This gives me hope!
And, in spite of all the things she does, it’s still probably what most of us would say are the mundane chores of a day. She makes meals for her family, she shops for the best deal on whatever her household needs, she stays up late hemming her husbands pants (well, sort of). Her husband is well known and highly regarded, so we can safely assume she a) spends a lot of time listening to him and being an encourager, and b) she holds the fort while he tends to work so he doesn’t have to worry about home. She sews clothes, has a little business to earn a little money, and watches over her household and family (probably even wiping snotty noses in there somewhere). And while she opens her arms to the needy it seems to be right out her back door, not overseas.
Every single one of those isn’t glamorous, or demanding the “look at me, I’m serving and doing amazing things for God!” mentality. They are the quiet and the ordinary things of life. It’s twenty-one verses of a busy wife/mom doing what busy wives/moms do best. It’s twenty-one verses of dishes, laundry, drying teary eyes, mopping floors, showering, date night, hemming pants, and making a casserole for a sick neighbor.
So why isn’t God blessing this wonderful woman with a beautiful ministry to bring him more glory? Why hasn’t he seen her diligence in housekeeping and promoted her to a more coveted role of work? something with glamour and woo factor? And for crying out loud, why hasn’t he at least given her an hour or two of quiet time with him?!
You see, sometimes God moves us quickly from one spot to another, and sometimes we sit tight…for what seems like forever (especially when we’re in the middle of it). He anchors us for awhile so to speak. But, he doesn’t do it because we are being punished, or because we’ve failed at a task and he’s waiting for us to improve. He’s doing it because he doesn’t need us to do anything. He doesn’t need our hands holding orphans in Uganda, he’s got that. He doesn’t need our mouths teaching english in Singapore, he’s got it. He doesn’t need us to stay up for hours contemplating deep theological theories, he knows them all anyway.
The Proverbs 31 woman knows that she’s right where God wants her. She knows she’s serving God through the mundane. It isn’t where she is or what she’s doing, it’s her attitude. She knows that when this world fades away it won’t matter whether she’s washed laundry, cooked hot dogs and Kraft Dinner, and cleaned dog puke stains from the carpet for the entire last year or created a ministry that clothes the homeless around the globe. What will matter is HOW she served wherever she served. Did she feed her family the KD and hotdogs with kindness and treat the little ones who spilled their cup of water for the gazzilionth time with a gentle approach that reflected her God? Did she seek to do the mundane knowing it was God that required that of her, not just temporary circumstances that she’s only waiting to get through to get to the other side of where she can REALLY serve?
Her strength and dignity, her fearlessness of tomorrow, and her kindness come from knowing that she’s right where God needs her. Right here. Right now. He makes the world spin, he really doesn’t need us to do anything more than sit down on the floor and read Hop on Pop to our tiny child one more time before bed. Our lives bring him glory no matter if we’ve heard this weeks sermon OR if we rocked in a chair while attempting to stay awake from sleep deprivation in the back corner of church.
Grab a few sticky notes and write your favorite verses on them and leave them around the house. (try this one: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col 3:23-24) Read whatever verse you choose and put them into memory in your heart. Meditate on them when you have brief moments. That’s your bible reading for this season. Sing Jesus Loves Me (and really mean it) while you grab the mail with your newly walking toddler, it counts. Play worship tunes in the background of your daily life. Whatever little snippet you add in, know that it all counts.
You’re right where God needs you.
At the end of the day, when you crawl in to bed and mutter a tiny “thank you for getting me through today” before you fall asleep, for this season, it’s enough. You’re doing enough. God needs you here. Right here. And rest assured, one day you’ll hear a sermon again.