Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - Loving Our Work

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

photo by Noel Mount

Proverbs 31:13
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.

Verse 13 is represented by the Hebrew letter Dalet.
Have you ever felt unwilling to accomplish your day to day work?  It has been one of those weeks for me.  I haven't been sleeping well because I'm now in my third trimester of pregnancy and that has made for a rotten attitude during the day sometimes.  Add a toddler to the equation and, wow... I just want to call a babysitter to take the boy and sit on my couch watching movies all day.  I think we've all been there for one reason or another.

I will come back to the first part of the verse in a minute, but want to begin with the second part for our study this week:  "[she] works with willing hands."  The Hebrew word that's translated "willing" is chephets.  After reading about this noun (yep, the Hebrew form is a noun, not an adjective), I think "willing" is sort of an underwhelming translation.  The Hebrew word means delight, desire, longing, the good pleasure.  So the verse is saying much more than "she is willing to do it."  It's saying that the Virtuous Woman's desire, the thing that she longs to do, is her work.

I don't think I've ever gotten out of bed in the morning with a burning desire to rush downstairs and empty the dishwasher.  As if the most basic tasks of the day, the boring stuff that just has to get done by somebody, should be the highlight of my day.  Riiiiight.

But Proverbs is telling us that our Virtuous Woman is not merely willing to do the hard, laborious, boring stuff... she loves it.  She longs for it.  It is her delight and pleasure.

Let's jump back to the first half of the verse now.  "She seeks wool and flax."  We're all familiar with wool, ya know, the stuff that comes off sheep.  It was, and still is, used for clothing.  Flax was, and still is, used for its fibers as well.  That's where linen comes from - the flax plant!  Bet you didn't expect a lesson in fabrics today!  The process of getting flax from plant stage to linen stage is interesting to me, mainly because I don't have to do it.  Otherwise I'm sure I would see it only as painstaking labor. 

The plant is pulled from the ground, then laid out to dry.  Once dry, it undergoes a process called retting.  Retting is a controlled rotting, or decaying of the plant.  It is left to lie in a field for several weeks, allowing dew to collect on it.  The very abridged story here is that the dew, over time, yields a desired softening and decay of the plant, wherein the usable fibers separate from the core.  It is only after this retting process that the fibers can be pulled from the rest of the plant and turned to linen, which is historically one of the finest, most beautiful fabrics in the world.

When the flax is retted, the fibers become soft and willing.  It isn't until the unusable portion rots away that the plant can be used for a purpose.

But is this retting process harsh?  Nope!  In fact, it sounds quite calming.  The plant just spreads out there on the ground, enjoying the dew of the morning.  Flax can also be retted in a stream or a pond.  Like a cool bath.  Now I am starting to like this metaphor.

Sometimes God uses the harsh situations of life to break us and mold us and change us and make us more like Himself... and other times, He calls us to rest.  I notice that the times when I feel the most unwilling to get out of bed/love on my kid/tackle my list/find something- ANYTHING -to make for dinner are the times when I am the most unrested.  Burn out takes over and every nasty part of myself that normally gets battled way down deep inside comes springing up to the surface.  And I am thinking more and more that what I DON'T need in these times is to just put on a smile and push through.  That doesn't change anything in my heart.  It only makes me more resentful of the fact that I have to do all this crap.  I think what we really need when unwillingness takes over is REST
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30
That sounds like the dew of the morning right there. 

The ability to take pleasure in our work is not usually part of who we are in our original form.  Going to Jesus to receive rest must become a part of our routine, in order that all the rotten stuff would fall away and we would become willing to be used by Him in whatever way He so desires.  When His desires become our desires - that is when we will delight in the work we've been given to do.

THIS WEEKS ACTION STEP:  Schedule a break.  If hubby can't take the kids, get a babysitter.  Get a mother-in-law.  Get a mama friend who will swap break time with you.  Just make it happen.  It's in your planner, so it is the law.
Let's not miss the very important part here that Jesus is the source of our rest.  Doing whatever we want might bring rest to the body or brain for a moment, but going to the Lord will give rest to our souls. 
So this is a very specific kind of break.  Here are the guidelines:
-It must be at least 4 hours. 
-It must begin with prayer and time in the Word.  You have a good chunk of a break here... go ahead and spend a longer-than-usual amount of time with God.
-Ask God to remind you of His Will in your life.  Ask God to remind you that He is your resting place when things get crazy.
-Then, do whatever you want for your remaining break time.
-No kids/housework/lists/planning/errands allowed.
-Just rest.

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

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for chephets (Strong's 2656)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 20 Jan 2011. < http://

Strongs=H2656&t=KJV >

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