Helen Reddy sang this song and became famous for it. Today, I am mulling over, "what does it mean to be a woman?" Over the years, I have seen many people try and define this ... it's been even harder to figure it out within the confines of the church!
Here are some of the things I have seen (and take this a little tongue in cheek ... no offense intended to anyone) ...
A Christian woman ...
- has long hair and wears lots of make up so she looks beautiful ...
- has long hair and wears NO makeup because her beauty should not come from outward adornment
- radiates with a soft glow
- is soft spoken and gentle
- wears dresses
- wears floral dresses
- home schools her children so that they are not influenced by corrupt cultures around them
- has long flowing tresses
- is quiet in church and does not speak ...
- keeps her head covered with scarves
- cooks all the meals for her family
- beats her own wheat to grind her own flour for baking her own bread ...
- never says no to her husband
- knows how to tie scarves 100 different ways to enhance her beauty
- surrenders all financial management to her husband (even if he is terrible at it!)
I could go on and on but by now you get the idea ... every single one of these, I have come accross as being held up by an ideal somewhere along the way in my christian walk! I am not someone who fits any of those moulds! And for a while it was a struggle for me. I asked questions, I challenged status quo and it made people uncomfortable at times!
So, why am I thinking about this? It's another thread that came through while God was speaking to me in Cambodia. Little things kept popping up and when I came home, it came up again. I was walking down the mountain and I sensed God speaking to me about getting more in touch with my feminine side. I actually got the giggles (anyone looking on, would have seen a crazy waygook (Korean word for foreigner) wandering down the mountain laughing hysterically!). My response to him was, "I don't know what that looks like!" I was thinking, "well God, you know!" I then sensed an immediate reply, "Go and look at the Proverbs 31 woman." I had a quicker response to that ... it went something like this: "I am not doing that! She is the woman that makes the rest of us feel completely inadequate. The ideal woman. The woman that half the Bible scholars say is a composite of all the characteristics people want in their ideal woman. Who can live up to that!?" And then I carried on down the mountain laughing even harder!
However, I did check her out again. And this time as I read, I tried to ignore the surface cultural context and take the character principles out of the text. I came up with the following list:
- she works hard
- she brings blessing to those around her
- she shows good judgement
- she is compassionate and generous
- she has strength and dignity
- she is free of anxiety and worry
- she speaks wise words and gives good counsel
- she is watchful and alert and guards that with which God has entrusted her
- she fears God
I also liked the study note on the epilogue of this chapter which says that this woman is almost a personification of wisdom. It says that like wisdom, she is worth more than rubies and that whoever finds her finds favour from God! The commentary on this chapter says that virtuous in this context literally means, "of strength and moral courage." The commentary also brought out a couple of things I missed ...
- diligently attends to expending and gathering wealth (vs 15)
- has strength and honor - good moral character (vs 25)
- wisely manages those under her stewardship (vs 27)
I like this. This Proverbs woman is not the image of the one that I have lived with for years. She is a woman that I would like to be and I don't think she is unattainable.
What does it mean to be a woman? Really, at the heart of it, I think it is about being free to be all who God made you to be - whatever package that comes in!