What Happened When I Admitted I Hated Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31. That much-loved and much-hated passage of scripture that has been used countless times to both teach and encourage women. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be like King Lemuel’s mother? She had it all together, right? Even her husband had nothing bad to say about her. Which, considering the time-period she lived in, was quite a feat.

As I matured into adulthood, I was under the impression that I was required to love this passage of scripture. Along with all the other teenagers in my peer group, I aspired to be like her. After all, she was respected, worked diligently, raised well-adjusted children, spoke with wisdom, and feared the Lord.

I didn’t admit at the time that I was intimidated by her. By the time I became a wife and a mom, I pretty much hated that passage of scripture. I felt that I couldn’t live up to that sort of expectation, both from my husband and from the pulpit. The last thing I felt was “clothed with strength and dignity.” I was often weak, frustrated, and anything BUT dignified in my messy hair, pajamas, no-makeup state. Marriage was definitely not what I had thought it was, and neither was motherhood. So the more I read and heard about this amazing woman of God and strived to be like her, the more I seemed to fail. All I wanted was for my lamp to go out at night, to get a full eight hours of sleep (those were the days!) and to not have to wake up and do the unending, monotonous things that I had done every day for years.

Who am I kidding?  I still long for that!

Then I had knee surgery in August 2016, and found myself bed-bound for twelve weeks, with a three-year-old and a two-year-old. I had a lot of time to think and reflect on my uselessness, and one of the things I reflected on was this passage I had come to despise. It took on a new meaning for me. I came to realize that this crazy expectation I had wasn’t placed on me by my husband or the teachings I had heard, but I had assumed was God’s expectation. It was written in His book, by His divine authority, and so surely the root of the issue was that I didn’t like what He had placed there. Suddenly, I had my Maker to contend with, not man.

And contend I did. Besides the mounting frustrations with being immobile, I found myself angry at God for his unrealistic expectations that I should be somehow perfect and able to manage my household like the King’s mother did. That my husband would be held in high esteem because of me, that I should be consistently giving to the poor and needy…the list goes on.

I don’t know when it happened, but as I lay on my back staring at me ceiling for weeks on end, the passage turned itself inside out. And I wondered… “Was she always like that?  Day after day?  Month after month?  Year after year?  Or was this just how her son viewed her, because of her trust in the Lord?”

I’m no biblical scholar, so you would need to ask one of them. But what I do know is that if she was a woman (which she was) and if she was a wife and mother (which she was) then she must have been like the rest of us who are labelled that way, too. She must have struggled with her marriage and children. She must have struggled with weakness, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed. She must have been just as surprised by Lemuel’s observations of her as I would be if one of my sons were to write something like that about me.

Friends, whatever the case is with you, whether your sufferings and strivings are done with joy or with exhaustion and heartache, Proverbs 31 should encourage us. Because, if my rambling thoughts are anywhere even close to being true, behind the scenes of Provers 31 was a tired, overwhelmed wife and mom who clung to the grace of God with a fighter’s tenacity. Yet her son didn’t see the struggles as being worth mentioning, because what stuck out to him was all the ways she was getting it right. 

Now, I read that passage with a grin on my face. Her son’s words came from a man who respected and loved a woman who undoubtedly was flawed, yet unswervingly devoted herself to the things of the Lord. May it be so with us. Whatever season you find yourself in, and in whatever capacity, the expectation isn’t that you will be perfect. Christ already did that for you. The beauty of Proverbs 31 is that Christ will transform our half-hearted, weakened moments into something noble and strengthened by grace.

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Social Media and Jealousy

This post is not directed towards you.  It’s about my heart. My motivations. My jealousy. My discontent comparisons. Gratefully, I know others struggle, too. And so here I go wading into waters others have covered better than I. Yet I pray my journey touches something similar in your own.

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The power of social media to tempt me to discouragement as a wife and mom is sometimes overwhelming; so much so that sometimes I wonder why I even use it. I log on to Facebook and it’s not just my friends statuses and pictures that I’m bombarded with…it’s articles and ads that claim to have the 5 steps to being a better homemaker and wife, a better mom to sons, or a new and better way to discipline them. As I am inundated with these images, if I’m not careful, I begin the comparison game.

Look, there’s my single friend posting a selfie of her working out in the middle of the day. Man, if I didn’t have kids I would be able to do that.

Wow. She’s really skinny, and her baby is only 6 months old. If only my body responded to post-birth like that!

Oh, look. So-and-so just had Starbucks for the third time this week. 

Gosh, I wish Eric sent me flowers every once in a while “just because”. He doesn’t do that anymore.

Man, I wish I made as much money as that person apparently does doing their MLM. Another cruise. Yay.

And then self-righteous judgment sets in.

Stop posting workout selfies! OMG, do you post a selfie EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU WORKOUT?

Why do you keep showing off your baby body? Put some clothes on, for crying out loud.

I mean, how much money can someone spend at Starbucks!?? Go buy a book instead.

Wow, your husband is just SO WONDERFUL. Way to make everyone else feel jealous.

Seriously, you want me to believe that joining your MLM will make me money all the time? I guess Eric should start posting about the raises he gets at work and take a picture of his paycheck, telling everyone to come work with him…

Admitting something like this is humbling and risky. I know, however, that others share these thoughts and feelings, too. Not being alone in my sinful attitudes doesn’t make them any less wrong, but I admit it, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I’m not saying #fitmom or #tbt or #myhusbandisthebest or #crunchymom or any other hashtag we use should be banned. I know ladies who have worked really hard to get the job, or body, or organic foo,d and if I had your body or money perhaps I would post about it on Facebook, too. I’m also not saying we should get off of Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

And I’m not really trying to join the bandwagon that goes in the opposite direction and glories in the fact that my life is messy and hard and “authentic” (as if being in great shape, working hard and keeping your house and children clean somehow makes you fake).  The fact is, the image of a beautiful mess is usually just as crafted as the image of having it all together. The reality is, it’s not the fault of my friends for posting things that fire up my tempations. In fact, the only solution to my problem is to evaluate what filter I use when evaluating social media. Do I filter what I see through a secular worldview that calls me to compare myself to others and judge them based on my own idea of what is good and right? Or do I evaluate what I see through a biblical worldview that interprets everything through the lens of Scripture?

It’s one thing to ask these grand questions, but another thing completely to answer, and  then respond to the truth found in the answers.

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What does it say about my heart when I think ‘Man, if I didn’t have these kids I would have so much free time!’ “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3). Sometimes all it takes is looking at my adorable boys and the thought of their not being born runs hurtling from my mind. And sometimes, when they are screaming and fighting and disobeying, I have to remind myself that they truly are a blessing. A heritage and reward is strong language. It reminds me that, in reality, the privilege to be their mother is far greater than the selfishness I seek.

What about the heart issues related to body image? “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). I don’t know the heart motivations of a person that posts a picture of them not fully clothed. In fact, maybe it’s in the right place. What I do know is that my heart is not in the right place as I compare or judge. The Lord is not as concerned with appearance as He is with the heart. (He IS concerned with appearance, but only insofar as it reflects the heart. More on that in another post.)

What does it say about my inordinate desire to have more money for things like Starbucks or books, or my judgment that someone spends too much money on those things? Now, the Bible has a lot to say about money, but the verse that particularly seems to fit this one is, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The more I have, the more I want. I wouldn’t be satisfied with just one Starbucks a month. I would continue to want more and more…and never be satisfied. It would turn into something else; wanting Starbucks everyday, a pedicure every month, a haircut every six weeks like the stylists say, and oh, I have to have a cute new outfit every month too…and then, I’m in a cycle that I can’t get out of.

What does it say about my heart when I wish my husband was more thoughtful or romantic, more attentive, or more…fill in the blank? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast.” Everyone is a better husband online.  My desire for my husband to be like someone else’s is dangerous ground. Envy leads to all sorts of evil desires, and the fact of the matter is, where my husband is lacking in one area, he far outshines in others. And so does your husband.

As you can see, the practice of applying Scripture to all of life really is the answer to my struggles. As you and I change the lens of our worldview filter and no longer see what we wish we could be, we will see what we are and be reminded of how wonderful it is to just be a child of the living God. A child of the One of who takes all our shame and clothes us in perfection. A child of the One of doesn’t view us based on what the scale in our bathroom says, but on the scale that has been tipped in our favor and has “Grace, mercy and justice” on the weighted end, and “sin, shame and sickness” on the other.

The answer isn’t necessarily to get off Facebook and Instagram or to skip any post with #fitfamily or #starbucks in the status line. Perhaps the answer is to change the way we view social media to begin with. And (shocker) ask what Jesus thinks about it. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t care how much money we make, except to care about how we use it. I’m fairly confident He doesn’t care that I don’t work out everyday, except to care for the temple the Spirit lives in. Friends, before we log back in to social media, let’s open our Bibles and see what God has to say both about about what we post and how we respond to what others post.

Originally posted here.  Edited for this blog.

Image is Not Everything

Our culture gets it wrong when it comes to women and image. That is no surprise, and much has been said on the topic. The Huffington Post did a piece on what tabloids would look like if they treated men the way they treated women. Westminster College has a well-researched article about beauty standards, women in the media, and how women internalize the “thin-beauty” standard.

It seems that although the culture admits there is a problem, they still buy into the lie that if you are thin you are prettier than if you are fat, if you have blonde hair you are more attractive than if you don’t, and having no skin flaws makes you sexier. And I’m not even touching on the anti-aging issue. One top health website has an article about top ten anti-aging tricks.

Walk through a mall and not only will you see advertisements adorning every store about beauty standards, but you will see a young generation that is literally buying into the lie that image is everything. Now that I have two sons, I want to teach them how to respect women and not objectify them. Lord willing, if I have any daughters I want to teach them to love how God created them and not have an unrealistic view of their body type. Yet the competing voices of the media and their friends will tempt them to not listen to Mom and Dad, and to go sell their souls at the altar of image. They will have to wear certain clothes. They will have to have certain hairstyles. My daughter will have to start wearing make-up at nine. She will have to have sexy underwear from Victoria’s secret in middle school…the list goes on, and it tempts me to fear. How will I raise godly children in this culture that is at war over their hearts?

I think it goes beyond just teaching Silas and Gideon to not objectify girls, and I think it goes beyond teaching any future daughters that they are beautiful no matter what. It goes fundamentally deeper; to the very identity that God has given us not just as Christians, but also as humans. Because at the heart level, sin takes what God created good and twists it to be something it wasn’t meant to be.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Originally, women (and men) were in the image of God. Not the image of who we were as individuals, reflecting our own inner selves that are beautiful. No. We were, and still are, God’s image-bearers. Once, Eve reflected God in a more perfect way than any sinfully flawed women that came after her (us included!) ever can or could. That is the image that matters, and that is the image we must teach our children.

It isn’t about keeping them unstained from the culture, or even learning how to love and respect others. Ultimately, a right understanding of who they are in God will lead to a right understanding of themselves and others. Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology says, “…as we read the rest of Scripture, we realize that a full understanding of man’s likeness to God would require a full understanding of who God is in his being and in his actions and a full understanding of who man is and what he does.”

In order to teach our children about God and themselves, we as mothers (and fathers) must understand these things ourselves. And it must come from hearts that have been affected by these truths, and not just words regurgitated from Scripture or big books like Systematic Theology. We can’t expect our children to take us seriously if they don’t see the truths we teach them modeled in the way we live our own lives. I can’t expect my boys to respect women who aren’t beautiful by the world’s standards if he hears me talking about how ugly someone is if they are larger than others, or if they have acne scars. I can’t expect any future daughters to be comfortable in their bodies if they hear me bemoaning the extra weight I carry around on my own body, talking about how ugly I am.

The culture says that image is everything. God says He Himself is everything. Sin says we need to look a certain way, act a certain way, and buy certain things to be happy and to have the correct image. God says that a certain Someone came and did what we couldn’t; he perfectly reflected God, was completely sinless, and did the complete opposite of what the world thought he should do. He allowed himself to be crucified to show the culture, and us, just how far the distortion of sin reached, and just how serious God took the lies we believed that the world’s image was better than His image. And even still, with the resurrection and seal of God’s approval, Christ still has a human image, one that we will have also, that will once again perfectly reflect what was once distorted in Eden.

Hope is never completely lost in the kingdom of God. While we wait for the perfect image to be restored, let us show our children and the world that even now, in a fallen world, we can still accurately represent God and his kingdom by not buying into the cultures lies. There is only one image that matters, and it certainly isn’t the one we have been bombarded to believe. It isn’t a transitory, ever-decaying image; it’s an everlasting one. And it points directly to the One seated on the throne, with his Son placing his feet on the world as his footstool.