It is nearly 80 degrees here today at this old house. Last week, I was posting pictures of huge piles of snow. Today, there are small patches left, here and there. This is what I love about spring-time in the Rockies. Shorts one day, boots and down jackets the next.
I was especially thankful that the weather has been so nice this weekend. I led a reflective Lenten retreat in the mountains yesterday and it was wonderful that many of the women took advantage of being outside during the extended times of silence. The theme was “Watching with Jesus” and focused on his prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane, while the disciples slept in grief, a form of coping we are all familiar with.
During the retreat, we talked about prayer as a way of life, about being vs. doing and the need for balance between those two, and St. Patrick’s Breastplate as a form of spiritual protection. An open session question led us off on a brief discussion of guilt. Whenever you are with a group of Christian women talking about guilt, invariably the Proverbs 31 passage comes up. Proverbs 31:10-31 is a paean to the “Martha Stewart” of her day:
A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant,
she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and tasks for her servant-girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all her household are clothed in crimson.
22 She makes herself coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates,
taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
Talk about a guilt-trip! Too many women compare themselves to this Biblical list and give up or, worse, feel shame and defeat. Yet, a very important point in this passage is too often not mentioned: this woman had staff! Like Martha Stewart today, this model of domestic prowess had help. Why do we fail to miss this important point?
She was able to multi-task because she was delegating to her servant-girls and to other members of her household! She was a domestic CEO and not an exhausted, I-can-do-it-all-myself-from-scratch fantasy. If we look at that list of what the Proverbs 31 woman does, we see that she is busy and on top of things, but she is NOT doing it by herself. She has help. Reading this list from Proverbs is like reading Martha Stewart’s to-do calendar in her monthly magazine. What isn’t listed on that calendar is the staff at home doing the laundry, cleaning the house, caring for the yard, shopping for the groceries, prepping a lot of the meal ingredients, and walking the dogs.
During Lent, the practices of fasting, prayer and works of charity are meant to help us live out of our True Self, the person God created us to be, and not our False Self, the person someone has told us we should be. Lent can help us with fasting from exhausting expectations for ourselves, praying for the strength to live fully into who God created us to be, and remembering that works of love and charity can include ourselves as well as others.
So live creatively. Seek to emulate Martha Stewart’s inspirational ideas but do only those that are ultimately life-giving. Or if all else fails, hire staff.