Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - An Inconvenient Journey

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

Proverbs 31:14
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.

Verse 14 is represented by the Hebrew letter He (or Heh).

I love the international aisle at the grocery store.  I get my whole wheat pasta, my flour tortillas, and my Thai peanut sauce all in one 50 foot stroll.  I can be in the store at 2:00, and have just about any dish from any place in the world on my dinner table at 5:00.  If you think about it, that's pretty incredible.  Bringing food "from afar" for my family is as easy as tearing open the taco seasoning packet (and no, I never feel guilty about using a taco seasoning packet).

When we think about it this way, one might think it's not so hard to be this Virtuous Woman.  One commentary I read on the issue put it this way:
"This means the wife of today can actually top this rare wife of Prov. 31, and so we
see that the progress of history has made it easier in some areas to be superior to the most superior wife of the past. Congratulations modern wife, for you have in

this one area surpassed the woman who surpassed all the women of her day."(
Hmm.  Why doesn't that congratulations feel deserved?  Is it true that just being born in my current era and culture has made virtuosity more attainable?  Or is this commentator missing something?  Perhaps a better question is, in my search for virtuosity, am I  missing something?  The above commentary, in my opinion, is coming from a very western-minded (dare I say American) perspective.  It congratulates me, the modern wife, for winning... just because I was born in the 20th century.  Is that how one becomes virtuous?  You just have to be born at the right time?  Sounds pretty convenient to me.

Are we searching for convenient character?

If I don't feel like fixing lunch, I can drive my family through McDonald's (shame!) and feed everyone for less time (and possibly less money) than it would have taken to make it myself.  And that's what we're used to in American culture.  If I want something, I just push a button, make a phone call, or double click and it's mine.  But I'm not sure that McVirtuosity is on God's menu.

The author of the poem could have easily said, "She is like the merchant.  She brings her food from afar."  But she is not compared to the merchant... she is compared to the ship.  I imagine things were a little more convenient for the merchant himself.  He could sit comfortably behind his desk sending his merchant fleets in and out of port without ever having to step foot on board.  The ship, on the other hand, is the vehicle through which all the trading was accomplished.  The ship journeyed back and forth between countries; the ship carried the load of goods; the ship suffered the dangers of the sea; the ship was the one to GO.

Maybe you've heard someone say that a woman's place is in the home.  After reading this verse (and the rest of the poem), I beg to differ.  It is here that we see a picture of a woman who was willing to GO that extra mile, and weather the journey, to provide for her family.  She was active in the marketplace of life.  She did not sit comfortably at home all day.  Her tasks were not simple, nor were her duties for the faint, weak, or ignorant.  Like a ship, she was powerful, strong, and prepared for the trip.

I don't think the heart of this verse is a discussion about food.  Otherwise, our commentator is right.  We've achieved virtuosity in a quick trip to the grocery store.  That would be pretty convenient.  I think the heart of the verse is saying that the Virtuous Woman is willing to GO the extra mile for her family, to accomplish the difficult tasks, and provide for them in ways that no one else is equipped to.  It is not a picture of easily accomplished work.  It is, on the contrary, a beautiful portrait of a woman who gets her hands right down into the hard, dirty, menial dirt of the day and (remember verse 13?)... she loves it.

We can not wake up in the morning expecting to just be this woman.  The kind of character we are reading about here is not gained easily or quickly.  It is not for sale at the mall.  It will not come off a fast food line.  It is not on Amazon.  Instead, it is learned; slowly, with focus and hard work, on an inconvenient journey.  Oh, and with lots and lots and LOTS of prayer! 

Are you willing to get off the couch and GO, that this character might be developed in your own heart?

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  What is one task in your home/marriage/family life that you know will improve things for your family but you've been putting off because it's not convenient... or because it's hard... or boring... or requires a lot of preparation... or is menial... or... well you get the idea.  Make this task your top priority this week.  Schedule a time for it in your calendar if you have to.  By the end of the week, see it finished. 

"She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens."

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