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Monday, October 16, 2017

The 31 Status

I remember a few years back when I changed my Facebook status to “the 31 status”. I had just come across this women’s group whose goal was to encourage women to aspire to be like the Proverbs 31 Woman. As a newly rededicated Christian, you bet I was ready to tick all of those boxes to earn the badge of the “Proverbs 31(P31) woman”. I admired women whom I’ve seen, through a few scrolls on their Instagram page, having all of their boxes ticked. Marriedþ Kidsþ Business ownerþ Careerþ keeping it all together þ have perfect answers to “where do you see yourself in 5 years” þ

The homemaker and business woman with her prim and proper family and always checked to-do list. This woman has set the bars ridiculously high and she seems to always have it all together. We all want to be her and even while we’re not yet married, we subject every part of our single beings to the perfectly molded picture of what we imagine the P31 woman to be as a 21st century spinster- married by 25, great job, beautiful kids *insert all set timelines* . We all try (often inadvertently) to paint the same picture with our model being a caricature and the result of this is a subtle pressure on Christian women to succumb to a stereotypical image of this woman who appears to “have it all together”.

I admire the portrayal of the woman in Proverbs 31- her virtues are laudable, her work ethics commendable and the respect she commands is honorable but what grabs my attention every-time I read the passage is verse 30. If I get an opportunity to sit with her, my questions won’t be how does she “keep it together” because she really doesn’t. I want to know about the times she struggled with loneliness while she was single or the time she second guessed her decision to marry the man she ended up with. I’d like to know how she dealt with delayed pregnancy, miscarriage and when she finally got her prayers answered, how she dealt with excruciating postpartum depression or even the death of a child. I’d like to know how she recovered from making the wrong business move and how tough the decision was for her to quit her job so she can stay home to be with her kids. I want to know how she managed to get a Ph. D., work two jobs and be there for her family all at the same time. I want to know about the moments she broke down from life demanding so much than she can give or when she realized her marriage was falling apart. I want to know how in the midst of all of these, she learned to FEAR the Lord. I am more interested in how she deals with things falling apart more than how she pretends they never do.

Time and time again, I've heard the 21st century interpretation of the P31 woman tending towards extraordinary accomplishments and making waves but the real heart of that passage is to point us to a model that displays some of the characteristics of the good tree that bears good fruit as illustrated in Psalms 1. In retrospect, socioeconomic constructs and societal biases may have contributed to us automatically painting this woman has someone who has it all together. She may have been the most ordinary woman with challenges unique to her time and if we put aside our individual expectations of her, we truly get to appreciate the result of God's transforming work that causes her to display such characteristics. The scenarios painted across Proverbs 31 shouldn't be a pedestal but an encouragement to us, that God extends his goodness to us by conforming us to the image of His son as we behold the glory of the Father.

Biblical womanhood  isn’t confined within the walls of P31, it is spread across the scripture and finds its very core in the message of the gospel. It is not a coagulation of checked lists of capabilities but the light of grace shone through brokenness. It is not having it altogether 100% of the time, it is the submission of body, soul and mind to the one who owns and knows it all, 100% of time. It is not the absence of insecurities, struggles and failure, it is a heart completely surrendered to the Father, despite all of these. The core of our identity shouldn’t be in our abilities to breastfeed, be the C.E.O of a fortune 500 company and speak in tongues all at the same time, it is our ability to fully recognize the significance of Christ’s death on that cross and the implication of it on our individual lives.
Should we then not aspire to be P31 women? No, I am encouraging us to aspire to be more than that; to bring our “not so together lives” in different forms and seasons to the one who holds things all together (Colossians 1:17). I am encouraging us to break out of whatever stereotypical box we’ve been placed in to make us believe we will ever be able to have it all together outside of Christ. I am encouraging us (with myself included in the “us”) to see every season, position and milestone as an opportunity for Christ to be preached and Him glorified. Whether married, single, not yet married, career woman, stay at home mom, business owner or all of the above, let us lay aside the weight of not being enough and run towards the one who is enough.

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