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EMBRACING YOUR PURPOSE, POWER, AND POSSIBILITIES
By Tony Evans, Chrystal Evans Hurst
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst
All rights reserved.
A Woman of Value
When a kingdom woman begins her day, heaven, earth, and hell take notice. When she nurtures and advises the man she loves, he can do little to resist her. When she offers care, comfort, and encouragement to her friends and relatives, they are able to go farther, faster, and in confidence because of her inspiration and reassurance. "Her children rise up and call her blessed" (Proverbs 31:28, ESV). Other women turn to her for wise counsel and a compassionate ear. Her church relies on her faithful service. She is a vital contributor to culture and a gatekeeper at her home to keep out the negative and promote the positive.
When we examine the history of the Christian faith, kingdom women (both married and single) are everywhere. Kingdom women throughout the Bible saved lives and nations. It was Jochebed who intervened on behalf of her son Moses (Exodus 2). Because of her watchful protection, Moses was later used as the deliverer of Israel (Exodus 3). It was Moses' wife, Zipporah, who saved Moses' life when God was going to punish him for his refusal to follow a simple command (Exodus 4:24–26). Esther's bravery gave the opportunity for the Jewish people to defend themselves from what would have been utter annihilation (Esther 7–8). Ruth's refusal to return to her own people because of her dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi, led to the ongoing line of the Messiah (Ruth 4:18–22). Rahab was instrumental in the victory of Israel over Jericho (Joshua 2). Mary carried God's Son in her womb (Luke 1:30–35).
The clearest profile of a kingdom woman that I have ever found in the Bible is in Proverbs 31. What is interesting, though, is that in all of my study of Scripture, I have never found a corollary passage for men as Proverbs 31 is for women. It could be that men need the whole Bible to get it right, while women just need a chapter.
The Proverbs 31 woman is the hallmark of kingdom women. I like to call her a woman for all seasons. She is strong, intelligent, capable, giving, resourceful, efficient, spiritually minded, and much more.
Now, don't close this book just yet. I know that sounds like she is a perfect woman, and you may feel that her standard is set too high to actually reach. But the Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. Neither is a kingdom woman called to perfection.
Let's use a stay-at-home mom as just one example. A kingdom woman is not someone who can multitask perfectly while also home-schooling three very different children, serving on four church committees, carpooling eleven neighborhood kids back and forth to soccer, keeping her home spotless, coaching the spelling-bee team, functioning as a killer CEO in the workplace, making her husband have the best night of his life each and every evening, and maintaining a size 6 figure well into her fifties—all while cooking only organic, nongenetically modified foods and making every meal from scratch.
That woman doesn't exist. And we didn't put this book together to make you think that you should be her either. In fact, from my experience pastoring a church for nearly four decades and spending thousands of hours counseling both women and men, the issue is often that women are trying to do too much—and all at once.
Women, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman and more—but that doesn't mean you do it all at the same time.
One of the most important principles for you as a kingdom woman is that your life flows through different seasons. Each of these seasons carries with it different time constraints, blessings, and demands. To try to do all things without being cognizant of the season you are in is the surest way to burnout and even bitterness.
The primary foundation of being a kingdom woman doesn't include a million different things done a million different ways. The primary foundation is actually simple and straightforward. It is located at the end of Proverbs 31. After listing everything that this particular woman did, the verse 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. (Verses 30–31)
What sets a kingdom woman apart from any other woman boils down to her fear of God. Her reverence determines her actions, thoughts, words, and priorities. Without that, the demands of life would overwhelm any woman.
Fear the Lord
A woman who fears the Lord will receive the praise that is due her. Her works and the products of her hands will give her the recognition and validation that are hers alone. When a woman understands who she is and how God made her—when she pursues her destiny in light of how God created her to function—what she does will produce remarkable results. This is because it will be in line with God's will. What too many women frequently do is base their decisions on trying to please others, or trying to earn acceptance, appreciation, or a sense of worth from their decisions, appearance, or actions. Yet God never said that you would receive praise for trying to please others.
The basis of how a kingdom woman functions comes out of her fear of God. How she prioritizes her home and family, organizes her life, makes decisions, chooses investments, and develops her skills occurs from her efforts to advance God's kingdom. If her priorities are rooted in anything else, they will lead to weariness and busyness rather than fruitfulness and abundance.
The simplest way I know to define what it means to fear God is to take God seriously. It means to place what God says and what God requires as the highest priority in your life. Fearing God does not mean that you are scared of Him. Fear is better understood as reverence or awe. It means to hold in highest esteem. A kingdom woman fears the Lord in every area of her life.
The marketplace does not control a woman who fears God. The television, magazines, blogs, and social media sites do not influence her away from Him. Her friends don't dictate her emotions or decisions. The culture doesn't define her. Even her own ambitions don't dominate her. Rather, the primary influence in a kingdom woman's life is God. His voice is the loudest. He is the One she seeks to please. Her reverence of Him determines her choices.
The Results of Fearing God
Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman did a lot. She earned her husband's trust, she made clothes for her family, she got her food from the choicest providers, and she invested in a small business with her earnings from planting a vineyard. She helped the poor, took care of those within her home, and dressed herself and her children in quality clothes. She brought respect to her husband and wisdom to those around her.
Keep in mind, she lived in a day and a culture where planting a vineyard did not mean that she did it all on her own. The passage said her arms were strong (verse 17), so we know she did do some of it. But based on the cultural norms of the day, it is likely that she hired others to work in her vineyard. She would have had maidservants who helped around the home, washed clothes, prepared food, and more.
When you break down all that the Proverbs 31 woman did and translate it into contemporary times, it really doesn't sound as lofty and unattainable. Essentially, she honored and respected her husband. She fed and clothed her family with the healthiest and finest she could afford. She invested the use of her skills in a personal business, spoke wisely and kindly to others, dressed herself attractively, and helped the poor. All of those actions can easily translate into your world today.
I don't want you to feel that what she attained is so far out of reach from what God is able to do through you. Because it's not. What it comes down to is that her fear and reverence for God caused her to do the best she could with what she had to promote God's kingdom and goodness in her own life and the lives of those around her.
Help Is Not Bad
An important principle that is often overlooked when we examine the life of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she was not too proud to get help. In verse 15 we read, "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls." Servant girls is not a term that we use today. In ancient Hebrew society, it referred to a handmaid or helper. It is a small reference to a very important truth. As I mentioned earlier, the kingdom woman in Proverbs 31 didn't try to do it all on her own. She had help. She was diligent, resourceful, and productive, yet she didn't do it all alone.
There is a stigma today for Christian women in particular about asking for or using help. For some reason people have come to believe that "exhaustion is close to godliness" is written somewhere in the Bible. It is not. The fastest way to get yourself off track from fulfilling God's kingdom destiny for you is to view yourself as a superwoman who has to do it all on her own. The key to your destiny is humbly acknowledging your dependence on God and maximizing all He provides you, even if that includes accepting or using the help of others.
For example, in the corporate world, a manager would not be considered a great manager if she tried to do everyone's job herself. A great manager knows how to draw out the best from those around her while simultaneously leading and complementing their efforts. You don't have to achieve your destiny alone.
I was crashing and crashing fast. After a wild holiday season followed by a trip out of state for our son's surgery, I felt as if my household was spinning out of control. At the time I had a teenager, a preteen, a preschooler, a toddler, and an infant. Oh, and did I mention a loving kingdom man as a husband who just so happened to work in the music business, which meant a lot of travel and time away managing concert tours? I was sleep deprived, short on energy, and short on hours.
Looking around my house, I knew I couldn't do it all. But I was determined to try. I was convinced that I shouldn't need assistance with my duties as a wife and mother. I'd always worked well under pressure and been able to keep a few plates spinning at the same time. Having been a mother from the early age of nineteen, I knew what it was like to juggle priorities and commitments to get everything done. I liked being capable, and I definitely didn't want anyone else in the picture to get the glory, uh ... I mean ... be burdened with responsibilities that were supposed to be mine.
I would see other women who I just knew were superwomen and didn't ask for help. Little did I know that some of them were dropping their spinning plates too! We know how to mask things, don't we? Each of us in our own manner finds a way to make things look nice and tidy to outsiders while we know the truth about the mess behind closed doors.
I wasn't ready to admit that I needed help. I wanted to be superwoman too.
I remember one night of that crazy-busy season, in those wee, honest hours, sometime after the last child fell sleep and my husband dozed off, there was no sound except for the still, small voice of God wondering in a whisper if He had somehow been forgotten that day. I prayed with a metaphorical hand on my hip. "God," I said, "if You want me to have time for You, too, then I need some help getting things done. And I need You to bring help to me." I didn't want to have to humble myself so much to actually go look for help—therefore acknowledging that I needed some.
But that's how great God is. Despite my ornery self, He heard my prayer in the middle of my dark and overwhelming night.
Now before I share the answer to that prayer with you, let me tell you about my philosophy on cleaning. I abide by the saying, "My house should be clean enough to be healthy, but messy enough to be lived in." Because I homeschool our children, I don't ever expect my home to look like it came out of a magazine. I—along with four to five children (depending on the time of year)—am home at least four days a week all day. My house isn't going to stay pristine just because I clean all the time. Not possible. I strive for balance between being a good mom, teacher, cook, wife, and homemaker. I'll trade a random opportunity to bounce around on the trampoline with my kids over scrubbing the baseboards any day!
Sure, I know a handful of ladies who are good housekeepers, great housekeepers, in fact. I have tried to figure out with my husband how they do it. Here is what I have learned. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day. If someone else's home is always pristine, it has to do with how she spends her time. My friend with the beautiful home and four homeschooled children has children all over the age of twelve. (Do you hear that, moms of small children? She has no little people!) Sure, she is running around to basketball and soccer practice, but with four other capable bodies in the house, she also has lots of help. Another friend of mine with small children has a gorgeous magazine-ready home. But her children spend three days a week at a Mother's Day Out ... and she has a nanny. My friend who makes gourmet meals every night has her kids in traditional school all day.
I also have a friend whose home is always in disarray, but she enjoys her little children and plays with them quite a bit more than I play with mine. They are always outside playing or inside working on some neat craft. Creativity and fun are their family's highest values in their current season. Ladies, it's all about how God designed you and what is important in your life right now. That determines how you choose to spend your time. No one can do it all.
So as a mom in the middle of mothering preschoolers on up to young adults, I just do my best. If I tried to put housework first at all costs, something else that is important would suffer: building relationships with my children.
As a result of my revelation, I have gone through a series of adjustments in my personal expectations over the last few years so that I can stay sane.
A few of my compromises are as follows:
I aim for a clean kitchen twice a day. Three times is a luxury. Even so, I always expect there to be dishes in the sink.
I shoot for a mopped floor two times a week, unless otherwise necessary. It's just too depressing to mop the floor only to find in just a few hours that it doesn't look like I did anything.
I try to hit each room in my house once a week on a rotating schedule. What does this mean? My house is not clean all at the same time.
I'm constantly training my children to care for our home, because I'm trying to work myself out of a job. This means our "clean home" is not going to be perfectly clean.
Laundry is always going. I do about a load a day.
My carpet is never going to look new, no matter how many rules I make about food and drink staying in the kitchen. It just doesn't happen. What can I say?
We live in our home. My teenager does schoolwork at the computer, my little ones do schoolwork at the kitchen table, we congregate at the island—in short, we are all over the place. As we transition to the dinner hour, I shoot for things in their place. If I can't have that, then I shoot for neat piles.
Oh, and the baseboards? I get to 'em when I get to 'em. (Or I'll just wait until my little ones are old enough to do a good job—they are nearer to the floor anyway!)
But here's my problem. I am comfortable with the standards in my home. But when I have a visitor, I'm still completely thrown into a panic. Why? Because I don't want to leave a bad impression of the kind of housekeeper I am!
So imagine my dismay when my dad showed up for an unannounced visit and proceeded to inspect my house. I kid you not; he went from room to room, each time saying, "Oh, Chrystal!" This coming from a man who barely raises his voice (except to preach, of course). Now, granted, the day he came was a bad day. Forget all my housekeeping rules. He wouldn't have known I had any!
In fact, it was a Monday. Mondays are always the worst. He commented on the spots on the carpet, the dishes in the sink, the stuff on my countertops, and the baskets of unfolded clothes in the hallway, and then he even peeked in my bedroom and saw the confusion in there. When he looked in my refrigerator, Dad groaned at the sticky stuff on the top shelf too.
Excerpted from KINGDOM WOMAN by Tony Evans. Copyright © 2013 by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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