Last week I posted about my struggle with success but I have been wrestling with the idea of how “Christian” success should be defined for about a year, specifically how it relates to…wait for it…motherhood and ministry.
We all know how the ‘world’ defines success. The money, the cars, vacations, beauty, jobs, yadda yadda yadda. Thankfully, us Christians know better than to pursue those things. Right?
Well, if I am so different from the world, or at least supposed to be, tell me how can Jesus freaks like me define success in different areas of their lives? Should Christians even be concerned with being ‘successful’ in the first place?
As I was praying about this I felt led to pursue, and share here, three different areas of ‘success’.
And the first one that I will share about today comes from Proverbs 31.
Okay, don’t stone me for this, but I try to avoid Proverbs 31 on this blog, and I would rather talk about pretty much any other part of scripture than this one. I hate to say that about any part of the bible but here is where I am coming from:
1) Women have used Proverbs 31 like a club to beat themselves up.
2) Women have used Proverbs 31 like a club to beat each other up
3) I think it is often misread and misinterpreted and misapplied.
4) It is overused to the neglect of acknowledging that the rest of the bible is also applicable for us silly females. Alright that is hyperbole, but think about it, is there any ONE place in scripture that men are FOREVER being compared to? Or led to? Or preached on? Or pigeon-holed into?
I think it is beautiful, I think it is God-breathed and useful as I do ALL of the bible and thankfully there are plenty of women out there writing books on it so I don’t think my dearth of commentary on “The Proverbs 31 Woman” will be missed.
And with that I shall now fully lay out for you my CHRISTIAN FEMINIST RANT.
What? That’s not what this blog is supposed to be about? Oh yeah. (sorry, I am feeling quite sassy today)
What was I saying?
Oh yeah, success.
I was praying about how to approach my Christian life and all my Christian activities, if not from a worldly-defined perspective of success, and I was truly surprised that laughter came into my head (and more surprised by a verse from Proverbs 31, God is both good and quick to humble me.)
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
Alright let’s dig in. So the woman described at the end of the book of Proverbs has had quite a busy day and is running on little sleep. (I’m guessing, okay I’m hoping for her sake, that she had perhaps a nanny and a house-keeper and possibly a secretary and board of directors)
She, like most women I know, is juggling a lot of balls all at once. At least two businesses (land purchasing/wine-making and garment-making/ sales), children, a husband, a home, and philanthropic activities to name a few.
Women fulfill so many roles in life, roles that are constantly changing with life-stages, career moves, family and faith journeys, and like the woman described at the end of the book of Proverbs, they are acting in several roles at once, trying to keep all these balls from crashing down around them.
These important roles like raising children, serving in church, loving spouses, and earning a living each requires daily activities like cooking and cleaning and, um, purchasing fields (okay, so if I truly commit to being the illusive “Proverbs 31 woman” does it promise to come with its own vineyard? I could get excited about that.)
Can I just admit that when I am juggling more than two balls at once, I am tired and stressed, and I am sure as heck not laughing – in fact a lot of time I am crying.
She laughs at the days to come?
I work my tail off. I make a mean loaf of bread. My house is clean. I treat my husband like the respected man he is (good thing this particular man doesn’t mind a little bit of sass…). I gave up on charm and beauty when I hit 30. I am putting my masters degree to good use to help provide for my family. And my kids help me with the “gets up while it is still night” part.
I got this.
Except, what is this illusive laughter being referred to? It is almost mocking me in my frenzied state.
What if one of her kids gets sick? What if her field burns to the ground? What if she gets postpartum depression and she just can’t cope? What if her kids turn out to be jerks regardless of how great of a mom she is? What if no one buys her linen garments at the market?
WHY IS SHE LAUGHING??!!!
One of the oldest tricks in the parenting books, when my kids are upset or whiny or on a downward emo spiral towards full-on tantrum, is to get my serious face on and say:
“Don’t you DARE laugh. I better not see you smile young lady. Whatever you do, don’t laugh. Uh oh – what’s this I see?” and just as quickly as a smile starts spreading through her precious little mouth a laugh is bursting forth and the moment is saved.
Laughter instead of crisis.
If my sweet baby girl was genuinely hurt, or perhaps truly committed to her cause for tantrum, this trick wouldn’t work.
Speaking of downward emo spirals, even now with less on my plate sometimes I want to scream, I want to quit, I want to panic, I want to worry and I want to do my favorite stereotyped (for good reason) female activity: I want to control.
I want to control.
I want to manipulate.
I hold the reins of my life tightly in my hand, you better believe it.
I clench the reins and steer like my life depended on it, jerking and yanking this way and that.
I plan and I fret.
Because I am truly committed to the things I am doing.
Is it possible that this capable, strong, domestic, fierce, Godly, multi-tasking master described in Proverbs chapter 31 knew better?
Is it possible that she is holding the reins lightly?
Is it possible that she is seeking FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all other things for her family and ministry will be taken care of as she uses the brain and resources that God has provided?
God created ME to be a capable, strong, domestic(ish), fierce, Godly and multi-tasking master, too.
But God knows that sometimes fields burn (and you know, bathrooms flood…)
And depression sinks in.
And kids rebel.
And economies flounder.
And people don’t show up.
And beauty fades.
And if I am holding the reins so tightly that I crumble to the floor like a bag of bones every time my circumstances suck it’s gonna be a rough road.
And worship will be grim. And life will be grim.
She laughs at the days to come.
I am so thankful for all the roles I get to play in my life, what a gift from God to have such purpose and participation in His Kingdom work, but try as I might (and I do try, and actually I think in Proverbs 31 there is an element to being prepared and diligent, which also helps in being able to let go) I cannot control outcomes.
I CANNOT define success as a fruitful vineyard or 10 garments sold at the market or 1st grade reading levels or people in the pews or a perfect mole, because some days fields are gonna burn and kids are gonna throw up and The Enemy is gonna wage his war.
But I can hold the reins lightly.
I can seek first the Kingdom of God today, and we’ll see about tomorrow, tomorrow. If I can do that, if I can love this life a little bit less than I love God, I think that is successful.
I can laugh at the days to come.
**So the second thing, after laughter, that I will be exploring in Christian success is SUBMISSION. Oh yes I did, and there will be no Christian feminist rant, promise. Stay tuned**