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Friday, May 17, 2013

A Difficult Woman to Know

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A Difficult Woman to Know  - Susan T. Smith

"Men look at themselves in a mirror.
Women look for themselves." - Elissa Melmed

I admit it. I have a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 Woman. At times she inspires me to no end. Yes, who can find a more virtuous, capable woman? She is an exquisite portrait of a truly remarkable and lovely woman, wife and mother. At other times I want to know where she lives so I can toilet paper her front lawn. Anyone who makes Martha Stewart look like a slacker has serious issues.
I am sure she has never had a bad hair day. She probably doesn't even know what cramps are. Her foot never finds its way into her mouth, repeatedly, like mine. The meticulous woman would almost certainly be aghast at my dusty floors then would give me pointers on housecleaning. I am sure she would then wash my floors herself like some deranged Mary Poppins. What a show-off!
I have often compared myself to this epic woman whom we will call Prov. She is like that tall, beautiful model trying on the exact same clothes as you. You compare your assets with hers and find yourself seriously lacking. As you gaze in the mirror, your reflection looks pitiful next to hers, like a speck of sand against the breathtaking superstar.
According to the Bible, not only does Prov do everything perfectly, but all around her think the same. Plus she has the husband and children surrounding her. For us single ladies, we feel even more inept. We hope that our singledom gives us the blessed loophole from trying to be everything Prov is. Does my empty ring finger give me a Get-Out-of-Proverbs-31-Free card?
As I read and study about Practically Perfect Prov (her formal name), I am inundated with questions. What is a woman's worth? What is my value? Does a woman have merit if no one is there to acknowledge her capabilities? Why does she have to be so flawless? And why is God pressing on me to examine her?
A mother wrote this discourse on the most excellent of women in the hopes her son would recognize a Godly wife when he saw one. Generations later and these 22 verses have become a checklist for some and for others a carnival mirror that distorts perception. I read about Prov and grow tired as I remember the dirty dishes in the sink and the spider webs in the corners of the ceiling. I tell myself that I don't want to be like her, but secretly I crave to have someone say those things about me. Someone determined she was of great importance and value. I think that is what I am most jealous of.
The Bible says Prov has excelled over all other women. She has surpassed Deborah, Ruth and Esther. She has outdone Miriam. She outshined them all and she is the ideal that I am to live up to. Are you serious?
"Susan?"
"Yes, God?" Obviously He was tired of me talking smack about Prov.
"Do you even know what it means to be a virtuous woman?"
"Pure, perfect, capable, high morals, quiet, and always polite." On a good day, I am maybe two out of five. "That is what the dictionary says."
"Dig deeper, Susan. You might actually like her."
"Wait, God, I have so many questions."
"You usually do."
"God, what is my worth?"
"You will figure it out. Susan, meet Prov."
And so began my character study of this exceptional and highly irritating woman that had taken up residence on a pedestal. Like any difficult person, once you get to know them and what makes them tick, your opinion softens and you see something of yourself in them. Or in this case, you discover components that are missing in yourself. I have found myself housecleaning my soul and spirit and she is the tool God is forcing me to use.
As I look in the spiritual mirror before me, I am seeing the ways I don't measure up. There are a few blemishes in my heart that have been covered. Sometimes the hardest person to study is the one in the mirror. Maybe Prov isn't as a difficult woman to know as myself.
"This is me, God. For better or worse, I am Yours. I am nothing like Prov. Maybe that is why she gets on my nerves. I want to be like her, but don't know how. There is a lot of distillation and mending to do, but this is my start. Have Your way, Jesus. Make me over."
Looking at ourselves in the mirror can be one of the hardest things to do. Mornings can be especially difficult since we more than likely have gunk in our eyes, smeared makeup and unkempt hair that has a mind of its own. Once we see what is amiss, we begin to put it back together again. How many times do we check our appearance throughout the day? Every potty break includes inspecting the mirror. We walk past department store windows and cast a sideways glance at the image just to ensure that we haven't left the house with our skirts tucked into our underwear.
There is one woman who would be more than happy to give up her mirror. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to look at the face staring back at her. She didn't need to be reminded of what the world saw; she had been hearing it her whole life. Look at how she is depicted in the Bible: "Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful." Can you imagine the wound to a woman's heart if she knew that her less than attractive appearance was still being talked about a few millennia after she walked on the earth? Ouch! I freak out when people talk about me the next day not to mention the next millennium.
What did it mean that Leah's eyes were weak? Some Jewish scholars say her eyes were pathetic because she cried so often about her circumstances. Perhaps she was ill, or maybe she was just plain ugly. The word used for "weak" means to be liable to give way under pressure. It comes from a Hebrew word meaning to faint, to have a dismal and weak appearance. There was no sparkle or breathtaking quality to Leah. She was less than average. Saying she had "weak eyes" was the polite way of saying she had a good personality.
No man would choose her. Her father Laban was probably very vocal about his burden to offload his first born daughter. Leah might have already accepted her fate as a spinster when in walks Jacob. Everyone knew he was head over heels in love with the striking Rachel. It was no secret that he had been working for the past seven years to marry her.
Finally the day had come that would pay off for Jacob. All the back-breaking work in the hot sun was a distant memory as the thought of his bride filled his heart and mind. Laban threw a wedding feast for the big event. One can't help but wonder how long he had been plotting the next events. Laban lead his new son-in-law to the bridal chamber. Jacob was probably skipping with anticipation and nervousness. Seven years of daydreams were coming true.
Who knows where Rachel was kept or if she was even made aware of the dastardly plan. Leah had taken her younger sister's place either by choice or by a father's forceful hand. Maybe Leah felt guilt for stealing her sister's moment, but then again a lifetime of being jailed in someone's shadow may have helped her overcome any momentary remorse. Rachel captured every gaze as she entered a room while Leah was inconspicuous and unremarkable. She was not easily seen; someone had to choose to see her and no one had. This was her moment to be noticed even if it was stolen attention. Feelings of pitiful sadness had to be flowing in her heart. "The only way I can get a man to choose me is by my father tricking him." A bride is to feel so beautiful on her wedding day, but this was probably the ugliest she had ever felt.
Jacob did not detect the switch. Maybe it was the veil covering Leah's face, the amount of wine in his system, or a combination of both that made him unaware of the true identity of the bride lying in his bed. Not realizing it wasn't the love of his life, Jacob treated Leah like beautiful, stunning Rachel. For one night the unsightly woman was deemed remarkably exquisite. Perhaps in the course of the night, Jacob called out the name of Rachel in ecstasy, but Leah chose to ignore it. Leah was finally touched by hands that coveted her. She was whispered to by lips that craved her. Leah was beautiful that night. She was no longer invisible, but the totality of one man's attention. She didn't want the truth that comes with the dreaded morning light to ever show its repulsive face. If only time could be stopped.
Jacob woke to find the weak eyes of Leah and not the remarkable face of Rachel lovingly gazing upon him. He was anything but tactful. With shock and anger he shouted, "What have you done to me? I served for Rachel, not Leah! Why did you deceive me? I have been cheated!"
The pleasure and acceptance she embezzled in the night was replaced with the reality of her worth to Jacob. She was unsolicited and undesired. She was once again the ugly woman who only looked good after enough wine and a veil. Leah knew she was the raw end of the deal.
His love was so great for Rachel, Jacob chose to work another seven years for her. He was willing to work a total of 14 years for her sister. No one had even offered to work a single day to win Leah. A week after her momentary joy, she witnessed Jacob marry Rachel.
Leah was not the one who was loved most. She held on to a brief ray of hope within her because Jacob still came to her bed. Leah was probably the backup when Rachel was considered unclean every month. God saw that she was unloved and opened her womb. With the birth of her first son Reuben, she was sure her husband would love her, but nothing had changed. With the next two sons Leah continued to hold onto the fantasy of being treasured. By the fourth son something in her had changed. She gave birth to Judah and cried out, "Now I will praise the Lord." It stopped being about a man's love and about loving God. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were barren until their prayers succeeded in changing their nature. Leah's barren heart was altered after her praises unto the Lord succeeded in transforming her soul. She still battled Rachel in the offspring race, but her heart was settled.
She didn't know her worth, but God blessed Leah more than she would ever know. Rachel might have been the wife of Jacob, but Leah was the wife of Israel. From her son Levi came a tribe of priests that would man the tabernacle and temple. Israel was built in the house of Judah. Through Judah came the line of David and eventually Jesus. Through all the pain, toil, and heartbreak, God was planning to redeem her. God loved her where Jacob failed.
In God's eyes, Leah was precious and had value. As women, we have worth. It might be hidden, but it is there. The Bible says the price for Prov was far above rubies. Everything in this world has a price tag. An amount has been determined and set. From towels to people, everything has a decided fee. In Uganda, a bride's price is set by the number of cows a family thinks their daughter is equal to. In some cultures it is the number of children a woman bears for her husband that decides her estimation. Jacob's price for Rachel was 14 years, but God's value of Leah was priceless. She became themother of God's chosen people.
If God uncovered Leah's inestimable value, He will also expose ours.
We might feel like Leah, trapped in another's shadow. That is because we are staring in the mirror of unfinished product. The mirrors on the laver were merely pointing out the places a person was incomplete. Our value is in the reflection of the cleansing water. That is where we become priceless like Leah.
This is what this journey is all about: looking at ourselves truthfully and fixing what needs to be fixed. I am trading in my vanity and handing God my mirror. He will show me what is flawed and in need of improvement. He will also identify those things that need to not just be remodeled, but have to be downright destroyed. God, like the army, persuades us to be all that we can be. It all starts with our reflection.
I want to overcome what I have seen and perceived. Sometimes mirrors are like the ones in the laver and are distorted. They are more like a funhouse mirror casting a false picture of who we are. They either make us look better than we are or worse. We need God's honest view of who we are. Our beauty lies in His heart.
Beloved, let's remember worth is simply the fullest extent of one's value and ability. Only God knows what your fullest scope is. He won't let us extend past what we are capable of. As for me and my house, I will remember my worth and that in God's eyes, I am greater than a ruby. The world isn't concerned with telling us we are worthy. A man doesn't give us significance. Our children aren't searching for our importance outside o their personal needs. It is God that knows our worth and determines our value. The love of God in us creates our beauty. Will you join me in handing God your mirror?


About the Author:Susan T. Smith is a pastor and missionary based in Masindi, Uganda. She recently became the mother of a beautiful four year old daughter named Amina Mary. Susan has written two books, Dancing Under the Ugandan Skies and her latest, Invisible Strength: Where We End and God Begins. Please check out her websites athttp://www.InvisibleStrength.org and http://www.BeTheClay.orgSource : http://goarticles.com/article/A-Difficult-Woman-to-Know/4266035/


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