Ask any mum how she’s feeling, and the chances are that ‘tired’ will feature somewhere in the answer (probably just after ‘fine’).
Motherhood is exhausting. That feeling of being constantly ‘on,’ watching, anticipating, attending. The countless responses to cries, questions and ‘Mummy.’ The countless snacks.
So honestly? I’ve found this week’s verse a little challenging:
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
Do I really have the energy for this?
‘Vigorous’ has connotations of energy. ‘Vigorous’ implies energetic, fast, motivated and strong. It’s a very active adjective. Often, I feel the opposite of vigorous.
Then I looked at other translations. Older translations have the phrase ‘she girds up her loins for the task.’ This is literally talking about tucking up your skirts! Tuck your long skirts up out of the way and get on with the job.
Now this, I can get on with. If there’s a task to be done, we can do it. There’s also a ‘masculine’ quality about this – getting rid of the encumbrance of skirts so that the task gets done. This is reinforces with the idea of strong arms.
Can I be strong for the task?
We discussed in the Mummy Meditations Facebook group (join it here) about how the strength may be physical. It may also be emotional, mental or spiritual. The strength is appropriate for the task.
There’s the idea of excellence here: her arms aren’t ‘adequate’ for the task; they are strong. This woman pursues excellence in everything she does. She has high standards.
There’s also a note here about physical strength. Christian women rarely talk about being physically fit, in my experience. I know that when I’m busy, my workout routine is the first things to go. But God is interested in our physical fitness as well as our spiritual fitness. This is part of my own journey, but I think it’s something that Christian women should be talking about more.
What’s my trading? How do I make it profitable?
The idea of excellence is seen later on in the verse, and the typically ‘male’ role of the trader is given to the woman. Not only does she trade, but her trading is profitable.
I don’t have my own business, but I think this a great encouragement to all those women who do. It’s empowering – in your pursuit of excellence, make sure your business is profitable. This is building on the idea of the vineyard that Rachel looked at last week, about making the most of every opportunity, while acknowledging that this is hard work.
Because for this woman, her lamp does not go out at night. She is hard working to the max. She’s putting in those long hours. We’ve seen women like this throughout history, from the matchbox makers in Victorian times to the mum-bosses of today. Here, the Bible celebrates and acknowledges those long hours.
So yes, this verse is challenging. But it’s also encouraging to know that God is with us as we pursue excellence. He’s with us as we put in those long hours. He’s with us as we wonder if our arms really are strong enough for the task.
Next week, Rachel is looking at verse 19-20:
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.