Proverbs 31: Woman of valor

I have always been a person who didn’t understand tattoos. Not that I would say anyone is going to hell if they get one or that someone is destroying his/her temple, but rather, I just didn’t understand them… And then this happened…

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I may have convinced Ruth that it would be fun to get matching tattoos—although, her tattoo is in Hebrew….

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So, why’d I do it?

After being introduced to egalitarianism (in a more in-depth look at it at least), a friend of mine suggested I read Rachel Held Evans book, “A Year of Biblical Wamanhood”. A few weeks before Christmas, and 308 pages later, I felt like I had found myself.

I lived my first 18 years of life in a town of about 4,000 where most people were “C’s” (as in Caucasian, Conservative, and Christian).  Two boys and a girl were born before me, and then I was, as my father endearingly called me, the “pleasant surprise of our family”. I grew up with a learning disability (LD) which wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30. In other words, I was told to “try harder” and “you can do it” repeatedly and yet, I never could do it no matter how hard I tried. Frustration overwhelmed me constantly!  (It didn’t help that I grew up in an emotionally and verbally abusive household either.)  I never looked at beautiful women in a magazine and thought, “I wish I looked like her.” However, there were countless times I looked at someone like Albert Einstein in a book and thought, “I wish I was smart like him.” Protecting my intelligence became my top priority (which is common for kids with LDs). I identify with Elsa from “Frozen” with the philosophy, “Be the good girl you always have to be, conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know, make one small move and everyone will know.” So, that one was of the two big reasons I was the quiet kid (the other being I am an introvert). I never raised my hand. I never volunteered. I never wanted to be noticed by teachers or other authoritative people in my life.

I remember as a kid, lining my dolls and stuffed animals up in pew-like fashion, and I’d pretend to preach, only to have it explained to me that God doesn’t want woman to preach. As a teenager, I recall one of our youth leaders guiding me to I Timothy 2:12. However, they couldn’t answer my question on why a woman could teach from the front of the church, just not from the pulpit. Since, the question couldn’t be answered; I decided not to believe it. Not that I had a sturdy theology as to why I didn’t believe it. Nevertheless, I followed where I felt God leading me which was to be a pastor in another church that ordained women.

The night of my farewell to seminary, my dad pulled me aside and said, “I just want you to know, I always prayed that one of you kids would become a pastor, but I never would have dreamt it would be you.” I wasn’t sure how to take this comment so I asked for clarification, in which he repeated what he said. Later, when I told my mom about this, she affirmed my thoughts. “He’s always prayed one of his sons would become a pastor.”

God has one amazing sense of humor!

During my early 20s, I had a well-meaning friend of mine, highly recommend, “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge. Although, it was an excellently written book that made a lot of sense, it left me out. I must marry; I must have kids, in order to be complete. The problem was I’ve never been too interested in marriage. The way I see it, if I get married I get married, if I stayed single I stayed single.   After babysitting in my teen years, you couldn’t pay me money to have children!   I love being an aunt and I love other people’s children, but I didn’t care to personally own any myself.

So, fast forward a decade or so, and I pick up “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” and I was captivated from the introduction! The basis of the book is Evans takes one year to practice Biblical Womanhood literally, and then she writes about her experience. It was an absolutely fascinating read and I highly recommend it for men and women alike. I was amazed how much sexism exists in our culture and how it has leaked into the church, and we are totally unaware of it. Most people (including myself at the time) if asked if he/she is sexist or complementarian, he/she will say no, yet live out those exact things in life. I feel it’s a lack of education.

I’m not much of a crier, but there were a couple parts of the book that moved me to tears. One part was where Evans recognized how the church has overemphasized marriage in The Church and how we need to go back to appreciating singles. I didn’t just cry over that section, I wept. I had to put the book down, and have a good, long cry. Later in the book, Evans introduced me to what fair trade and sexual trafficking are and the importance of a woman’s voice in fighting for change for millions all over the world. I had never realized how important a woman’s voice is and how much it can change the world around her. Again, I had to put the book down and have a good, long cry. It was nice to know that as a woman, I have importance, value and that I’m needed for what I uniquely bring to the table.

The book was very powerful as well. Evans explained how Proverbs 31 is often misinterpreted. In the Evangelical Church, we have taken this Scripture out of context as we make it into a list of what a Godly woman should be. We treat it like a list of tasks that lead to the ultimate goal of being the kind of woman every man dreams of having by his side. However, in the Jewish culture, this is actually a chapter that is for the men. Hebrew men, commit Proverbs 31 to memorization and then sing it to their wives once a week, as a way to say, “This is a woman of valor! Look at all the amazing things she does! She is to be celebrated!” Proverbs 31 is meant to be an ode to women, not a check list. Whatever a woman does in the Name of God, she is to do it with valor—with bravery, with courage, with boldness. This brought a whole new concept to me of what it meant to be a woman of God. I can be bold? Wait! What? I can be brave? I can have courage? Really? That’s amazing to know!

A few years back, after reading Andrew Murray’s book, “Humility: A Journey Towards Holiness” I chucked the check list Christianity. I had been raised to follow a bunch of rules. Rules that told me what I couldn’t do, and they were rules that were to condemn those who didn’t follow them. That type of Christianity was tiring and had wiped me out. While reading Murray’s book I acknowledged, yes, there are rules, but they aren’t my focus. My focus is on loving God and loving others and doing my best to live a life of humility. Life became so much easier and purposeful! It made a whole lot more sense too. Previously, what I knew to be true was that no matter what rule I followed, I was wrong. Now, I just live with love and humility, the best I know how, and I live successfully, no matter what.

I share this to say, I could easily align a woman of valor next to my conviction of love and humility. They easily connected. They easily made sense. They easily worked.

Recently, I have been learning a lot about agape love, and the biggest eye opener is how much agape love is a decision. I have known this for years, but I guess, it’s just now making its way from my head to my heart. God has decided to love me. That’s profound, because emotions come and go, but a decision is a decision. God doesn’t wake up one more and just say, “Eh, I’ve fallen out of love with you.” Nope, He loves unconditionally and eternally!

My favorite part of the Evan’s book was when it mentioned Deborah, the Biblical person I was named after. For most of my life, I have hated my name! Why? Well, besides the obnoxious “Little Debbie” jokes, I hated it because it meant “Industrious Bee”. I hated that meaning… I’m a bee… Not a princess like Sarah or joy like Noami. Nope. I’m a busy, black and white striped insect. While reading Evans book, I was surprised to learn the name of the book of Judges is poorly translated. A better translation is “Warriors”. I remember thinking it was great to know a woman was a warrior! Especially, since Deborah, woman and warrior, lead Barak, a man, into battle. Awesome! When I went to Israel in March with a group of fellow pastors, it was affirmed, Judges is better translated as warriors.   Now, how does this work being I’m a pacifist and all? Easy. I’m a warrior of love. I’m a warrior of peace.   I’m a warrior of justice. I’m a warrior of truth. I’m a warrior of humility. I’m a warrior.

My life has been spent feeling inferior to men, weak, fearful and unintelligent. The book helped me grasp what it means to be a woman of God. It’s not about check lists of right rules. It’s not about being the most intelligent. It’s not about being strong or weak. It’s about, whatever my calling in life is; I’m to do it with valor. I am to be a pastor of valor. I am to be a single of valor. I am to be an artist of valor. I am to be an advocate for the Deaf and for sex trafficking with valor. I am to be myself, with valor.

I wanted to get it tattooed, because it will permanently identify who I am in Christ. On those days I screw up, I can read, “Woman of valor” and remember God loves me with agape love. On those days I do great, “Woman of valor”. Those moments, I persevere to the very end, “Woman of valor”. Those days I find myself upset and crying, “Woman of valor.” Those days, I’m trying to do the right thing by loving and living the best I can in humility, “Woman of valor.” Those days when a friend of mine is hurting I can say to her that she is a, “Woman of valor.”

Valor means brave.

Valor means courage.

Valor means bold.

I am a warrior.

I am a woman of valor.

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