I bought A Year of Biblical Womanhood three days before I boarded a plane to Africa. I’d been wanting to read Rachel Held Evans’ book for a while, but something kept me from the instant-gratification act of purchasing the ebook for my Kindle. I had a hunch that this would be the kind of book I would want to hold in my hands, to highlight and underline and dog-ear. The kind of book I would want to press into the hands of friends with hearty recommendations and minor threats of what would happen if the book wasn’t returned.
(I guess you could say I had high expectations.)
And I wasn’t disappointed. I read through the book in a week before passing it to my teammate Andi, who, three pages into the introduction, decided that every girl on my team needed to hear this and instantly began reading out loud. Thus, the nightly tradition of Storytime with Andi began as we worked our way through A Year of Biblical Womanhood together.
On our second night, we listened to the Valor chapter, much to my delight, as I’d been repressing shouts of eshet chayil for a week, concerned that my teammates would think I was crazy for the random exclamations of mispronounced Hebrew. Once everyone had received the briefing on this blessing, however, I promptly incorporated it into my vocabulary.
(I’d like everyone I know to read this book so they understand my need to yell ESHET CHAYILLLLLL whenever possible.)
I woman of valor’d my teammates for everything from chicken gutting to preaching to making dinner to spider killing. And with the idea of eshet chayil lodged in my brain, I was amazed by the valorous women that surrounded me.
Elizabeth, Pastor Simon’s wife, whose rough childhood made her determine that she would ease the suffering of other children, who rose at five a.m. to prepare the house for the day, spent all day at the school and orphanage she ran, who welcomed us into her house and served us joyfully, who made the most delicious chapati. Woman of valor!
Milly, a young wife and mother who saw her children every other day so that she could be at the orphanage she ran, who loved the thirty-two children under her care, who trusted that God would provide for them. Woman of valor!
Every single woman that we encountered – who invited us in, fed us delicious food, served us cup after cup of tea, shared their struggles and asked for prayer – women of valor, every single one of them.
And every time I gave this blessing to a woman, whether shouted to a teammate for her malaria-defying mosquito-killing skills, or silently prayed over someone whose name I didn’t even know, I was inspired to become a woman of valor.
See, the Proverbs 31 woman and I haven’t ever really gotten along. I’m more of a hit-the-snooze-button kind of girl, not a wake-before-dawn one. I don’t have a husband, much less kids. I don’t plant vineyards, or anything else for that matter, nor do I particularly like wearing purple.
Let me put it this way: if Proverbs 31 was a class, I’d be failing. Pretty sure I couldn’t even earn points for participation. Homemaking isn’t really my forte, although one of my friends has told me I’d be a great soccer mom. I think it was a compliment.
No, I tend to admire the women who do Big Things. Women with thoughts and voices who speak boldly. Women who are strong and courageous and maybe a little bit stubborn. Women who refuse to be boxed in or ignored. To me, this home-managing, clothes-making, garden-tending Proverbs 31 woman rejected that woman. The P31 passage has always made me feel inferior, made me feel that my lack of desire to be a stay at home mom made me less worthy, less valuable.
But eshet chayil as a blessing, as praise, as encouragement? This I could get behind. This reminded me that valor can be found in anything a woman does, from mothering to teaching to working, from running a home to running a company. Woman of valor, who acts out of love. Who lowers herself and elevates others. Who serves uncomplainingly. Who does justice and loves kindness and walks humbly. Eshet chayil.
The Proverbs 31 woman, after all, is kind of a beast. She’s a businesswoman, involved in everything from real estate to agriculture to trade to production. She is a woman of wisdom, of teaching. She cares for the needy and she provides for her family. She is clothed in strength and dignity, and I bet they look slammin’ on her.
Basically: she’s the bombdiggity. This is a powerful woman, valorous in a million ways.
Eshet chayil reminds me that no act is too small to be valorous. That everything I can do can bring glory to God. That there is beauty in the everyday. That there are always opportunities to love and serve others.
Eshet chayil to the mothers. Eshet chayil to the CEOs. Eshet chayil to my sisters worldwide who are loving and serving, who are making a difference in acts both great and small.
And eshet chayil to the woman who kills spiders, because if you ask me: that right there is an act of valor.