Earlier this month my "70 year old best friend," who was now 87 years old, passed away. Even though she had been sick for a while, I thought that she would get better. I wasn't ready for her to leave. It was truly a blessing for me to get to attend her viewing and her funeral service. While I had somewhat realized and contemplated the influence that Maw had in my life, I had no idea of all the other lives she positively impacted and changed. People who knew her as their teacher, or fellow choir or Sunday school member, or Women's Club member, or Book Club member, or aunt, or sister-in-law, or neighbor, or long-time friend were all sharing different ways that my grandmother had ministered to them. What a woman! What a life! What a legacy!
I felt a strong urging to do something at Maw's funeral. She was just too special and I wanted to make sure everyone who was there understood that. I ended up putting together a brief video tribute that showed pictures of Maw as an 8 month old baby girl all the way to pictures of Maw holding her 8 month old great-grandbabies. With a concordance in hand, my mom and I were searching for the perfect verse to conclude the slideshow tribute. My mom came across a somewhat obvious one that neither of us had thought of yet, Proverbs 31: 30-31, which says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." Growing up in church and listening to "Christian" radio, I've heard a lot about the Proverbs 31 Woman, but to be honest, I've always shied away from studying the passage. I've been too afraid that the it would point out all the ways I've in which I was not a Godly wife. It is self inflicted guilt that I struggle with daily. I hate to blame it on the church culture in which I was raised, but somehow my view of a "Godly" wife has been skewed. I've always thought the real "Godly" wife stood meekly and quietly by her husband. She did the cooking and the cleaning (tasks in which I neither excel nor enjoy). She also had lots of babies. I've always thought, "this is definitely not the picture I had for my future, but is it what God pictures?"
Feeling both convicted and challenged by my grandmother's legacy, I sat down to study Proverbs 31 with an open mind and found out that this Proverbs woman was nothing like I had pictured. This picture of a Godly woman is industrious. She's an entrepreneur – "She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes," "She sees that her trading is profitable." She has her own ministry – "She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." She uses her hands and her talents to create – "She makes coverings for her bed (I knew their was a Biblical justification for my interest in quilting J)," "She works with eager hands," "her arms are strong for her tasks." She earns money outside of the home-"She considers a field and buys it: out of her earnings she plants a vineyard." And yes, she must also cook – "she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls" (although this could also mean that she uses her earnings to get take out! J)
This is reassuring to me. I've always believed that God has individually gifted each of us to participate in a plan that is much bigger and more mysterious than anything contrived by our traditions, our culture, or even our church customs. We do not have to fit into a preconceived box of "wife" or "mother." Through our daily interactions with Christ, the studying of His word, and the use of our individual talents and gifts, WE define the picture of a Godly woman.
I see now what I unfortunately did not realize earlier . . . Maw was a Proverbs 31 woman. She cooked, she cleaned, she sewed, she taught school for 38 years, she was faithful to the ministry in which she believed, and I am a Christian today because she decided to believe in and follow Christ a long time ago. It's always easy to sanctify a person after she has gone and I know that everyone has made mistakes and no one is perfect, but I want to recognize the influence that Maw had in my life and be sure to pass on this legacy that she left. I feel sure that we will never fully see the far reaches of her influence.
Before she died, my grandmother identified a passage in Psalm that was important to her. One verse, in particular, stood out to me. Psalm 71:18 reads, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." Man! To have this be my prayer . . .to let me live so that I can declare the power of Christ to future generations!