It seems like all of the great spiritual revelations God brings about in my heart happen in coffee shops…This particular thought came about as I was at the North Post Commissary Starbucks and was talking to God about the remnants of fear concerning motherhood (no, I’m not pregnant). I say remnants, because over the course of Jake’s deployment, as I’ve lived with different moms and watched them be moms and wives and daughters of the High King all at the same time, every major aspect of fear in me about motherhood was whittled away until just some corroded stubs were left. Being a mom and being a wife and doing ministry is just so doable…It’s really hard, but very doable. As I anticipated Jake’s homecoming, however, Satan poked me incessantly with the stubs.
After some solid prayer time with God, I thought it might be a good idea (as was suggested at one point by Jesse, one of the ladies discipling me) to just read what the Bible has to say about motherhood. After all, the truth will set me free, right?
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The first place I went was Proverbs 31. While reading through it, I was trying to ignore the bitter stigma placed on this passage of the Bible. Many women of the Church have been scorned or made to feel guilty through teachings on this passage, as they feel they can’t measure up to the standards listed here. I don’t think I’ve ever felt insecure as I look at the woman described here, but I’ve consistently been both encouraged and challenged in my service of God as a woman, and taken the specific things the Proverbs 31 woman does as general instructions for how to glorify God as a woman (“girding herself with strength/strengthening her arms” communicating that she takes care of her body, “making tapestry for herself/having clothing of fine linen and purple” communicating that she rightly cares about how she dresses, etc.). Another thought I’ve had is that this list of attributes is not communicating “This is who you as a woman/wife/mother ought to be,” but rather “This is who you are in Christ as a woman/wife/mother. This is your position, whether you believe you ought to be or are able to be this person.”
I started going through the chapter, highlighting any of the times that the position of mother is mentioned. Some of these include:
“The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him.” (v. 1) —note: okay, so the mother is a kind of teacher of wisdom.
“She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household.” (v. 15)
“She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet.” (v. 21)—note: similarly to v. 15, she is active in the lives of her children and her husband (in the context probably her servants as well), and is active in providing for and taking care of them (which, as far as I’ve observed in most moms, seems to be a natural motherly instinct).
And then, while I read, I hit verse 27, which says, “She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” This verse consistently sticks out to me when I read this chapter because it’s easy for me to fall into idleness, particularly when there are consecutive days when I’m at home alone and Jake is at work. I have to be deliberate in making the best use of my time during those day patterns and not “eat the bread of idleness.”
But this time it stuck out differently. The “watches over” caught my eye, and I wanted to know what that meant exactly. So I looked up the word using Blue Letter Bible and saw that this Hebrew word was consistently used in the Old Testament to describe the position of a watchman in battle (1 Samuel 14:16, 2 Samuel 13:34, 18:24-27, 2 Kings 9:17-20), and it’s defined as one waiting expectantly and with readiness (1 Samuel 4:13, Job 15:22, Psalm 5:3, 37:32).
This was important to me, because I’d always seen the “watches over” as simply being a facilitator, or someone who just makes sure everything is running smoothly. But this is a watchman. The most basic definition of a watchman is “a person who keeps watch; a guard.” As far as I understand, the watchman’s position throughout history has been to be the first person to see danger when it was coming, and if the watchman failed to do his job, everyone else died, were pillaged, etc. The watchman could not fail.
Even jumping over to Titus 2:5, in the passage instructing older women within the Church how they ought to be discipling younger women, the word for “keepers at home” is translated first as “guard.” So, even the older women who are training the younger women are training them to fill the an important position on the battlefield in this spiritual war; the watchman.
This is kind of a different look at motherhood, isn’t it? We live in a culture that certainly acknowledges that motherhood is an important and trying occupation, but the extremes are weird. One extreme is that “Of course being a mom is important, but you should also, on top of being a mom, pursue the career that you want and have a full time job of some kind so you can earn your keep and prove that you’re not a doormat,” with the other extreme being, “You are a doormat, and your needs and feelings and desires will always come last.” Oh! These are not true…this is not the way God has designed the role of mother.
Here’s the verse again:
“She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)
It seems like the way God desires moms (and wives and women in general, according to the context) to be and even see themselves is as watchmen…God does not see moms as doormats, and the lies that the enemy seems to feed them about their identity are not true. There is battle language in Proverbs 31, which implies that much more is at stake here than fitting a mother-mold created by the world and by misinterpretations of God’s Word. Moms, you are the watchmen of your family.
The way this particularly relates to me is through prayer. While I’m not a mom, I am still called to be a “virtuous wife” and a “keeper of the home,” and am therefore called to be one who “watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” God is teaching me a lot about prayer and the power of it (I feel like He’s always teaching me about prayer…), and so the idea of “watching over” reminds me a lot of Colossians 4:2, which says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” The idea of watching over things, for me, implies a state of vigilance, “waiting with readiness.” And so this might be suggesting another role for the mom/wife within the role of watchman, that role being prayer warrior. Another verse that comes to mind in this idea of “watching over” is 1 Peter 5:8-9, which says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” So, to combine these thoughts, there’s an element of waging spiritual warfare in prayer as the watchman of the home.
But I digress.
The point is that, hey, moms? It has delighted God to make you the first line of defense for your families, the steward of your home under the headship of your husband, and you are important. If you go down, everyone goes down with you. You are not a doormat, at least not by God’s standards, and His opinion is the one that matters most.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, with guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)