Sunday, May 12, 2013

Eshet chayil - woman of valor

Last year, I read Rachel Held Evans' book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which she attempted to follow all of the Bible's commands for women for a year. The point was to show how much Christians pick and choose when deciding what constitutes "Biblical" womanhood. One of the most meaningful parts of the book for me is when Rachel discusses the Proverbs 31 chapter,  a description of "the wife of noble character." She talks about how this passage has long been used in evangelical circles as a kind of checklist for a good wife. As such, it is daunting (she rises before dawn, stays up past everyone else, sews the household's clothes, etc., etc.). But, in talking with an Orthodox Jewish friend, Rachel found out that the chapter is actually a song of praise for what a woman has already done. On the Sabbath, Jewish men sing the first line to their wives. Rachel began adopting the phrase "Eshet chayil" as an expression of praise for women and hosted a series on her blog for people to praise the women of valor in their lives.

Since that time, I've been thinking about that phrase, and today, on Mother's Day, I wanted to talk about my own eshet chayil - my mom. She is a woman of valor for so many reasons. Here are just a few:

She has never given the impression that motherhood is a burden. If any of us kids need her, she is there in a heartbeat, with no guilt trips, no sighs, no hesitations. When I was "stressed" in college, she drove out to Abilene in a huge thunderstorm to do my laundry to help me get ready for a trip. (I put stressed in quotes because I now realize that wasn't truly stress. I'm sure my mom knew that at the time, but she always took my feelings seriously.) When I was young, I just figured that's how moms were. But now that I'm older, I've seen a lot of people who can't count on their moms the way I can on mine. I hope I don't take that for granted anymore.

She took care of three of my grandparents in their last days, sitting with them at the hospital, driving them to doctor's appointments, running errands, etc. And I never heard her complain about it. That was a very powerful example for me. 

She treats Darby like her own child. Sometimes we tease her that she loves Darby more than me, but, seriously, it means so much to me that she loves him.

She has cut the apron strings gracefully. I was a little concerned with how she would handle an empty nest, since she's always been a stay-at-home mom, but she's just as wonderful a mom of adult children as she was a mom of small children. She lets me make my own decisions and doesn't pry or give unsolicited advice. Because of that, I feel like I can talk to her about anything, and we're closer now that we were when I was at home.

She is open-minded and willing to listen. Recently, Darby and I have talked a lot with both of my parents about issues in the church. Some of the topics we talk about are things that, 5 years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of talking with my mom about. But, I underestimated her. She's a great example to me of someone who quietly does what she believes is right and doesn't feel the need to convert everyone to her way of thinking. 

The older I get, the more appreciative I am of the example my mom has been for me. She has truly put her heart and soul into her chosen vocation (motherhood), and that makes her a woman of valor. Eshet chayil!