A couple of years ago, I read, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans. I was at a place where I was tired of back-biting and position defending in the church. I wanted her to rise up beautiful and unified with the words of peace on her lips. I was so over the underlying expectation that every woman is a potential adversary vying for the same piece of the earth I was striving for. We’re told to turn a skeptical eye towards one another. We’re told other women will steal our opportunities because they’re more beautiful or has more readers and get invited to speaking engagements. She married the holy and handsome husband and mother perfect kids who grow up to be arrows in her quiver. Therefore her pursuit of awesomeness is a threat. Therefore it’s our job to be better, stay bitter, and push her back in her place if she tries to outshine.
There’s only so much awesome in the world, right? Right?
No…wrong. And “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” reminded me of that. Two truths about my identity as a woman and my role in the kingdom came from Rachel’s words.
The first truth is: One women’s specific brand of awesome will not look like mine.
The Bible isn’t a blueprint for us to follow and if we do so, we’ll all turn out exactly the same. We’ll cook well, sew curtains like a boss, reveal our gentle spirits with soft words and passive nods, or even…even…sit quietly in the church without Holy Spirit words burning bright and hot in our souls. No! When I read Rachel’s book, God showed me He made her to be a hard question asker who creates room at the table for all Jesus seekers. He also made the spicy Jen Hatmaker, the poetic Jesus Feminist Sarah Bessey, the in your-face-truth-teller Grace Biskie, the Story-telling Elora, the brave mama Jessica Kelley, and the mousey Shalom-y me (who loves her some Sasha Fierce).
The beauty of this truth is we’re all so different, but we reflect his character in profound, real ways. When he looks at us, diverse yet unified in Christ, he says, “IT IS GOOD”.
When he speaks over us, he says…YOU ARE GOOD!
The second truth I learned is: Our awesomeness combined will reveal the great Awesomeness of God: Jesus Christ and his unfathomable love for us all.
I have the ability to participate in revealing this love when I release my hold on my pride and pet doctrines to stretch out my hands to my sisters—may they be as different from me as a slushy winter storm is to a sweltering heat wave. I also have the power to create unity when I choose to bless instead of curse my sisters in Christ.
At a time in my life when I wanted Shalom in the Body, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” was a beautiful lesson of love and acceptance for who God made me to be and a call to create authentic community, especially in the chapter on valor where Rachel teaches us from her friendship with a Jewish woman, Ahava. We find out from Ahava, that the dreaded Proverbs 31 passage, which I’ve been guilty of turning into a “to do” list to get help me acquire that piece of elusive earthly praise, is actually a blessing to be spoken over a woman whom God has ALREADY said “she is good”:
Here’s the thing. Christians see to think that because the Bible is inspired, all of it should be taken literally. Jews don’t do this. Take Proverbs 31, for example. I get called an eshet chayil (a valorous woman) all the time. Make your own challah bread instead of buying? Eshet chayil! Work to earn some extra money for the family? Eshet chayil! Make balloon animals for the kids at Shul? Eshet chayil! Every week at the Shabbat table, my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It’s special because I know that no matter what I do or don’t do, he praises me for blessings the family with my energy and creativity. All women can do that in their own way. I bet you do as well.
“A Year of Biblical Womanhood” pg. 86
I was so energized by Ahava’s insight. Jesus used it to remind of the many Scriptures about encouraging each other; my favorite is found in Hebrews 3:13 that says we should encourage each other as long as it’s called today so that our heart will not be hardened.
With a renewed desire to bring unity with my words and do my part in keeping our hearts soft towards each other, I sat down and asked the Lord to forgive me for my competitive cattiness. I asked him to show me the women who needed to be encouraged—even if she intimidates me, even if her awesome steps on the toes of my awesome, even if from the outside looking in she’s got it all together, and especially if we disagree on theology.
As Rachel puts it, “Eshet chayil is at its core a blessing—one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally.”
This blessing captured my imagination and had me thinking: How can I use Proverbs 31 today in what I think is God’s intended purpose for us…to encourage and inspire?
So I went Eshet chayil crazy.
I was emailing all week-long with my personalized, “Eshet chayil” MeebleMail.
I was texting my girlfriends messages like:
“You didn’t strangle your baby’s neck when he Would. Not. Stop. Crying at moms’ group today…Eshet chayil!”
I talked about it at small group and to any woman I had coffee with, butchering the pronunciation and Googling the RHE blog post on Momastary to back up this crazy notion that we’re here to speak extravagant blessings over one another!
I was like Oprah on car giveaway day. “You get an Eshet chayil” and “You get an Eshet chayil’ and “You get an Eshet chayil!”
EVERYBODY GETS AN ESHET CHAYIL!
Eshet Chayil has become my go-to praise for the women in my life.
So naturally, this month when I took a card-making class at Papersource, I made and “Eshet Chayil” Valentine’s Day card.
As I was making the card, I remembered one Valentine’s Day I chose to bless the women of valor in my life.
One year, the week before Valentine’s I saw a cute stack of note cards at Target that reminded me of the women in my small group. I can’t remember the design but something stirred in me. I knew each woman was lovely and needed to be told so. So in each card I wrote a message of encouragement. I told her the ways I was praying for her and the ways she’s touched me that year. I sat down for one hour and wrote eight little messages, sealed them up, addressed and then stamped those little pink-heart stamped love bombs. Two months later after everyone sent me messages of thanks and a few words of encouragement in return, we sat around the table saying goodbye to each other. Our study was coming to a close and we wanted to share our highs and lows over the past six months. During this time of affirmation, one woman said to me:
Osheta, my high and low this year happened on the same day. My husband’s flight was delayed and he couldn’t come home for Valentine’s Day. One of my kids wasn’t feeling well. I was exhausted and generally overwhelmed. I was angry that my husband didn’t even leave a Valentine before he left, even though I was sure he’d bring one home from his trip, and then the mail came. I saw this little envelope with your name on it, and when I opened it up and it was a Valentine. From you. And I cried because it was the only Valentine I received this year.
And of course, I was a hot mess from across the table and we were all blubbering and promising to stay in touch. I will always remember that moment as one of my favorite practices of Shalom—because I chose to bless instead of curse, Heaven touched earth.
How can Heaven touch your little corner of earth this Valentine’s Day?
I’ve decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day by honoring the women of valor in my life, in effect turning my Valentine’s Day into a Woman of Valor Day.
I’m going to take a moment and pray like I did that evening two years ago and ask God for the women who need to be encouraged and Eshet chayil-ing I’ll go.
I may make a new Meeblemail template for them and go nuts emailing.
I may blow up their phones with texts of encouragement and love.
I’ll tweet, FB wall post, and Pinterest love-share as if speaking life to these precious women is the last thing I’ll ever do.
And, I’m probably going to send some cards in the mail—so what if they get to them after the day! Love needs no appointment to be on time.
Won’t you join me tomorrow in blessing the women in your life? Won’t you come Eshet chayil-ing with me?
EVERYBODY GETS AN ESHET CHAYIL!
No matter what they do or do not do. No matter how they make me feel and no matter if we disagree on pet theology.
EVERYBODY GETS AN ESHET CHAYIL!!!!!
Getting ready for my Woman of Valor Day,