Wanting Children While Single

You snuggle babies every chance you get, longing for the day when you might hold your own child. Or perhaps you don’t hold babies any more because the ache of wishing they were yours is just too much. That’s the kind of grief and longing we associate with women in relationships who want to have a child and can’t get pregnant. Yet this desire isn’t confined to women with a man in their lives whom they love.

I’ve always felt guilty for how much I sympathize with the barren women of the Bible. As far as I know, I could have children if I found the right guy to marry and it seems rude to compare myself with women who are physically unable to have children. It also seems out-of-order to long for children before meeting the man I’d want to be their father.

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image credit: Jordan Whitt via StockSnap

I’m not alone, though. A woman I met through this blog while working on The INFJ Handbook shared her desire for children by asking why so many children are born into broken families while we, who would make good moms, are left barren. Since then, I’ve come across other women who feel the same way. If you’re committed to not having sex before marriage and/or not having children without a man in your life, then single women can know the pain of empty arms that long to hold a child.

Cultural Back-lash

Longing for children is unpopular in today’s society. We’ve become so obsessed with the fact that women are more than “baby producing machines” that the notion of being a mother has becomes synonymous with female oppression. Instead of seeing motherhood as a beautiful thing that many women desire, we’re told kids should take a back-seat to your career, your other desires, and your empowerment as a woman. And if having kids is actually one of your top life goals? well, clearly you’re still living in the pre-feminism dark ages. Read more

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Mighty Women

It seems odd to me that I’ve read the “virtuous woman” passage scores of times without bothering to look up the word “virtuous.” The Hebrew word, chayil, was mentioned in the first message given as my Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) site this year. I even had it in my notes, but forgot about it. God brought it to my attention again at the end of the Feast, when a man handed me a booklet titled “A Mighty Warrior: The Hebrew-Biblical View of A Woman” by Dr. Frank T. Seekins. I can take a hint — one Bible study/blog post coming right up!

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Into The Hebrew

Chayil (H2428) carries the basic meaning of “‘strength,’ from which follow ‘army’ and ‘wealth'”(Theological Wordbook OT, entry 624). It’s used about 20 times of God’s might or power, and about 85 times to describe an attribute of people.

When chayil is used of people, there’s a marked difference in how it’s translated for men and women. For men, we find translations like “mighty man” or “mighty men of valor.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes, “The individual designated seems to be the elite warrior similar to the hero of the Homeric epic.” For women, however, “it is translated ‘virtuous’ (ASV, RSV ‘worthy’ or ‘good’), but it may well be that a woman of this caliber had all the attributes of her male counterpart.”

While Biblical women were not typically warriors and did not serve in the army, we do have the example of Deborah acting the part of a “mighty woman of valor.” We also know from passages like Ephesians 6:11-13 and 2 Timothy 2:3-4 that all Christians are spiritual warriors. God’s women must be just as valiant as His men!

Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an armory, on which hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. (Song 4:4)

O my love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners! (Song 6:4)

Both these passages from Song of Solomon are descriptions that the male lover, who represents Christ, uses toward the female lover, who represents the church. Great men aren’t frightened of strong women; they embrace them as allies.

A Little More History

You might wonder why English translators decided to use “virtuous” or “good”for chayil when the Hebrew leans more toward “strong” and “mighty.” I suspect there were two reasons. Firstly, the original meaning of “virtue” in English was closer to chayil. It arrived in English around 1200 from Old French with the meanings, “force; strength; vigor; moral strength.” Originally, the Latin virtatum meant “high character; goodness; manliness; valor; bravery” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

Secondly, with prevailing attitudes of gender around the time early Bibles like the 1611 King James Version were released, translators were probably hesitant to call women “mighty” or “powerful.” By the 1590s, “virtuous” was losing the more martial aspects of the meaning, shifting toward moral characteristics. In reference to women, “virtuous” became used as a synonym for “chastity.” In the King James Version you can still see this word used for “power” in the New Testament passages where dunamis (G1411) is translated “virtue” (Mark 5:30; Luke 6:19, 8:46). In the New King James, references to Christ were changed from “virtue” to “power,” but the “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31 only changes to a “virtuous wife.”

It’s true that high moral standards are essential for godly women. Commands regarding modesty and chastity are recorded elsewhere (1 Tim. 2:9), and the character of the Proverbs 31 woman is beyond reproach. But there’s more to being a “virtuous woman” than we might assume from what we’ve grown up hearing about “traditional gender roles.” The word “virtue” has suffered a similar fate as “meekness,” which our culture thinks of as synonymous with “doormat” while the original meaning carried the idea of strength submitted to God.

Mighty Women | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Allies in Battle

God created men and women to fight for Him together. They’re both supposed to be strong and they’re both supposed to support each other.

Men and women were created by God to be allies. As a culture, we have lost the concept of powerful allies; the very thing that Proverbs 31 is telling men to value. …

When a woman’s power is undercut, a situation is created where men and women become enemies. Instead of supporting each other, we battle and undermine God’s call to reflect Jesus relationship with His bride, the church. …

The Biblical concept is clear — A woman of power is to be valued and supported. It is God’s call for women (and men) to become mighty and powerful. (Seekins, p. 2)

I think many women balk at the Proverbs 31 model because it seems so domestic and submissive. “I don’t want to be a stay-at-home barefoot-and-pregnant good little wife,” some protest. “Why would God ask for such an outdated model of femininity?” But when we look closer at Proverbs 31, we find that’s not actually what it’s saying.

The first two descriptions show a woman who does her husband “good and not evil,” and who has earned his complete trust (Prov. 31:11-12). Her husband is respected by all, and it’s implied this is in no small part owing to her support as his ally (Prov. 31:23). In addition, she cares for the poor and needy, practicing the command to “love your neighbor” (Prov. 31:20). She’s respected by her children, husband and the community, and her opinion is highly valued (Prov. 31:28-29, 31).

The Proverbs 31 woman is shown actively doing productive things. She works with her hands, engages in trade “like the merchant’s ships,” and oversees workers in her household (Prov. 31:13-16, 19, 22, 24). She’s not full of anxiety because she has confidence in her ability to care for her business and family (Prov. 31:18, 21, 27).

Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. (Prov. 31:25-26)

It’s still an intimidating picture to try and live up to, but there’s no reason to reject it as demeaning to women. If anything, this “outdated” model is far more powerful than anything modern women’s empowerment movements have come up with.

When a woman understands her calling to be a mighty warrior and a perfect ally, she will conquer and control life. She will remember that the men in her life are not the enemy; her weapons are not meant to be used against them. The weapons of her strength and power are to be used against their enemies (Seekins, p. 23).

God calls all of us to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Both men and women need to recognize this, and embrace our roles as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7), fighting as allies for and alongside the Captain of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.

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Another 5 Favorite Proverbs

Another Five Favorite Proverbs by marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve finished making my way through a study of Proverbs, in preparation for my church’s women’s group discussion about favorite proverbs that is taking place this afternoon. My first post covered five proverbs from chapters 1-10, the second covered five from chapters 11-20, and this last post is for chapters 21-31. I still haven’t decided which of these 15 is my favorite, but at least I’ve narrowed it down to 15.

11: Reputation

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold. (Prov. 22:1)

I just heard a sermonette last week about God giving people names with meanings that fit the roles He designated them for — Jesus = savior; Paul = small; Peter = a little stone; Abraham = father of a multitude. From what I understand, names in Hebrew thought are inseparable from the essence, character, and reputation of a person. Therefore, it is better to have a good reputation, a name worthy of respect, than to have great riches.  The word for “favor,” which is described as better than silver and gold, is from the word chen (H2580), and it means “favor, kindness, grace, loveliness, charm, preciousness.”

12: Deliverance

For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. (Prov. 24:16)

It doesn’t promise that if you are a just person you will never fall — it says you will be able to get back up rather than fall deeper into mischief. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,” David said, “but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19). If — when — we fall, we  can be assured that God is holding our hand and will help pick us back up (Ps. 37:24).

13: Friends

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Prov. 27:6)

King Lear would have been a very different play had the titular character been heeding this advice. When a friend wounds you, it is generally 1) an accident, or 2) with a view to your good. David wrote, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it” (Ps. 141.5). It might make us angry at first, but if we are honest with ourselves, we can often see that we were reproved out of love, and that we become better people with a stronger friendship as a result. In contrast, listening to the flattering words of those who secretly seek our hurt can only lead to grief.

14: Guardrail

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (Prov. 30:5)

“The Guardrail,” from joyfultoons.com

Here we leave Solomon’s proverbs and read “the words of Agur the son of Jakeh” (Prov. 30:1). This is a two-fold promise. Firstly, that God’s words are free of imperfections. As such, it is all profitable and no part should be ignored or neglected (2 Tim. 3:16). Secondly, that the Lord shields those who trust in Him. This was a frequent subject in Psalms, such as “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). Connecting these two points is the fact that God’s commands are designed to protect us, as illustrated by this comic I saw on Facebook the other day.

15: Beauty

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:30)

This is from the end of the virtuous woman passage contained in “words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him” (Prov. 31:1). When I was younger, I latched on to this verse as a substitute for my perceived lack of beauty — if I couldn’t be pretty, I could at least fear God and earn praise that way. As I’ve become more comfortable with myself and more mature as a Christian, my views on this verse have changed. I concentrate more on the last half of the verse, asking “How can I be a woman who fears the Lord?”

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (! Pet. 3:3-4)