Motherhood & Respect
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.’
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honour her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
And then comes the kicker. The last few verses of this Proverbs 31 Woman’s story where she seals the deal and finds favor in the eyes of not only her children and husband but also in the sight of the Lord and at the city gate.
She’s done it. Somehow she’s done it.
I know that she still may seem unattainable, and the truth is that this type of lifestyle takes a lifetime. But know that it can be done in your own way and through your own story. You can become your own unique, quirky, spicy, and flavorful version of a wife of noble character. God didn’t put her in the Bible because she’s impossible, He included her because she is an example. And when He gives us an example, He’s giving us the foretaste of a promise to us. This can be us, and it’s not through works, though works are a part of it. It’s through grace, and it’s through truth, and it’s through the messy middle. This woman is not one of perfection but she is one of diligence. She’s not one of impossibility, she’s one of faith. She’s not one of bitterness, but she is one of forgiveness.
Let’s look at the last paragraph one more time. She is a woman of forgiveness. Her nature is to give in advance. We’ve already seen in her story all these places where she has given of herself because she has received well from Him.
There’s absolutely no way to do all of this the way she is described if she was not a forgiver. It’s simply not logical. Especially if she’s a real life human being! But what she must have known was a deep sense of presence, not only within herself but with God. She had authority to give, which means she must have learned how to receive. And in the receiving, she was given the transforming power to do-it-all. And not only do it all, but do it well.
What strikes me most about her, though, is not how much she’s accomplishing but the fact that she is praised by her family and community because she fears the Lord. This isn’t about her performance, and this isn’t about an identity issue. It’s not about trying to earn her way into Heaven or trying to please everyone around her. No. This woman fears God—which means God must have spoken to her, and she must have obeyed.
Isn’t it interesting how that turns the tables? This was not about her. This was about the mission God created her for and her assignment from Heaven. In a day in age where the grip of a poverty mentality has followed so many, where so many are trying to take selfies to find followers and find themselves, this woman was giving her life away. Of course it was about her identity and the joy of who God created her to be, but it was about so much more. This was about listening to the voice of God and bringing that creativity and passion and intercession to Earth in practical and present ways. This was about nurturing her family and also transforming her city and country and world. This was about receiving from God and delivering His message. This changes everything.
When we feel passionate about something, we want to do it. What fuels you? She was fueled by her family; they were her prize. Perhaps she didn’t have the connectedness of a family before, and she was guarding that space. Or perhaps she knew of the virtue and the support of a family, and she was promoting what that looked like to the people around her. Perhaps it was both.
What we do know is that she was respected. And in order for her to gain such a great respect from those she cared for, she must have been at peace with herself. In life and in motherhood, she was honored. She carried honor with her, which means she had the support from God, her own self-esteem, and also those around her. Her character was secure, and her value was immense.
I remember the day my firstborn, Ella, arrived. It was the day I gave up my vanity. When your legs are in the air and your lady parts are adorning the hospital room, when you are crying and yelling, perhaps even saying a bad word or two under your breath (or sometimes aloud), you are humbled. Mothering hurts. Childbirth hurts. It brings out parts that are broken in us and sometimes slathers that pain around the room. It can be messy before it’s glorious. I’m by no means saying any of it is perfect, tidy, or even dignified in the process. If you made it through childbirth without wanting to kill anyone, I commend you. You are my hero.
But once I looked into each of my children’s faces while they learned how to cling to my breast, it became so clear. Ella, Lucy, and Oliver Humphrey: YOU are worth it. All of it. The laying down of my life, of my body, and my schedule. You are worth every boundary I create and every war I need to walk into in order to protect you. I exist now to support you, honor you, and guide you in the ways of righteousness. That IS my job. These are such minute sacrifices for the glory that is to come in our lives. I will learn to tighten my lips when I want to complain, get out of bed when I want to relax, praise God for his forgiveness when I am in repentance for losing my hold, and grab grace when the tears of redemption and forgiveness flow. Children are amazing forgivers; let us never take advantage of that as mothers. Let’s do better. They don’t deserve more flattering attention or plastic dreams, they deserve good mothers.
Society gives women so many avenues for identity, passion, and purpose. There is not one way that is right and one way that is wrong. Each of us has our own story of becoming a wife of noble character. Within each of our own quirks and testimonies, stories of heartbreak and messiness, big mistakes and loads of failures, He is there. And He is reminding us of her example. And it’s not because we have to perform or live up to standards that will make us pull out our hair or feel awful about ourselves. It’s about His provision for us, His grace to see us become all that we were created to be as human beings, as women, as mothers, and as friends.
He provides this for us. We just say yes to the process. Maybe you started out broken or abused, or perhaps felt un-equipped or not special. Maybe you feel like all your practical skills don’t amount to much. It doesn’t end there. I promise you that, and I can attest to that. There is hope and room for you. There is grace and nurture and beauty for you. There is growth and support and community for you. There is a sisterhood for you. There are other women in your vicinity who don’t want to stay down and out but want to rise to the challenge. You are a masterpiece in the making, and every stroke of the paint brush with each color you choose gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of God-in-you, God-revealing-you. How beautiful is that?
It’s not so much about what you need to do, it’s that we need to see you. Hear you. Know your story and listen to your voice. We need the practical gifts of joy that you give away. We need your stories of learning how to become a woman, and a wife and a mom. We need your vulnerability and your courage. We need your trying of new things and your growth. We need your expertise, and we need your talents. We need your presence in God. And so does your husband and your family. So does your city and beyond.
Women are a gift.
And as we continually re-learn our value, not from pictures in a magazine, but from the heart of God Himself, we start to become more and more brave to share some of that value with others. Because in the sharing, we honor one another. We honor the God-in-each-one-of-us, and we celebrate! We mature in our own identities, we pursue Christlikeness, and we learn how to become a friend. We learn to love and not to judge, we learn to accept correction and also give correction. We learn our value over and over again. Don’t sell your soul to a system that trafficks the real you. We can’t save another if we’re still selling ourselves. Our worth was paid with a price, bloodied hands and nail-pierced arms. A man crowned with mockery gave us the voices and the keys to forgiveness so that we could redeem what was broken. Nothing holds down Jesus. He came back to the life after three days crucified, and who was there to meet Him and see Him first? The women. They were awake, terrified, and alarmed. They didn’t know a women’s right to selfie on Instagram, it wasn’t even in the cards because they knew a life met by Jesus. He was standing there, with them, fully alive and fully redemptive with the gift of piercing our hearts, not with anxiety but with the fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of the rights He gave us from birth. Be beautiful, be glorious, and be on guard. Be a listener and a worshiper, watching over the affairs of your heart, your husband, and your household. Hold tight to the presence of your home and be sure that you are prepared for the world outside because we give to the world and not take from it. We live lives of bounty, abundance, and glory to glory. We live in obedience and in service to Him and not to ourselves.
A woman who fears the Lord will be praised. How does that look on you? Absolutely gorgeous.
Twirling Tips for Chapter 9:
How can you serve your husband and children more freely?
How can you courageously show your true self to a friend or to the world around you?
Where in your life do you fear the Lord?
God, thank you for a life of womanhood, motherhood, and respect. Help me to be grateful for what I have and to pursue ways to honor my home with your love. Help me be the wife and mother I am called to be. Amen.
Copyright Sarah Elizabeth Humphrey 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.