This year, as in the past, many women (including me!) may slip a little lower in the pew if the minister reads Proverbs 31 on Mother's Day. While we long to be an ideal wife and mother, the truth is, most of us fall far short of the woman portrayed in those verses.
That woman is well respected and praised by her husband, her children, and the community. She runs an efficient home and business, provides every comfort for her family, ministers to the needs of the poor, and has unlimited energy and talent. Whenever we compare ourselves to her, we wonder, "What's wrong with me? I'm working myself to death, but I don't seem to be successful--in any area."
We identify far more with Biblical women for whom life was not easy. For example, rather than bask in the joy of motherhood, Moses' mother had to find a way to keep her newborn from being killed. (See Exodus 2.)
Naomi's husband and two sons died. Afterward, grief-stricken and poor, she relocated, accompanied by Ruth, the widow of one of the sons. While they waited for God to provide a new husband for Ruth, one who would take care of both of them, Ruth managed to find food for Naomi and herself. (Read their story in the book that bears Ruth's name.)
Hagar, forced to bear a child for her mistress and then treated badly thereafter, was finally sent away, she and her son, to wander in the desert. After their supply of water ran out, she put the boy under a bush, and then, not wanting to watch him die, went a short distance away. But God saw their desperate condition and miraculously provided for them. (See Genesis 21.)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, blessed though she was to have been chosen to bear and to nurture God's Son, experienced agony of soul on many occasions. For example, her out-of-wedlock pregnancy surely made her the subject of much gossip! But that heartache was minor compared to the sorrow she suffered as she observed the way people treated her Son, ultimately crucifying Him.
As I reflected on how these women struggled, how they seemed unlike the "Woman of the Year" portrayed in Proverbs 31, I thought about the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which lists many of the heroes whose "portraits" hang in the Gallery of Faith. Following the list of those whose names and actions are well-remembered are these words: "Others were tortured and refused to be released.Some faced jeers and floggings, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them." (Hebrews 11:35b-38, New International Version, italics added).
People who do heroic deeds and/or lead exemplary lives are to be commended and emulated, to be sure. Yet, those of us who struggle along, despite having a heart for God, should remember that He loves us as much as He does the high-achievers!
ï¿½ 2004 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill, whose web address is: http://eThomaston.net/johnnie.
From our archives 5/5/4