For most of my life, I read Proverbs 31 as an individual challenge. I felt, and was taught, that it was a yardstick for measuring my success as a Christian woman. My perspective fed into a destructive perfectionism that alienated me from God.
In recent years, I’ve come to embrace this passage in a different way, approaching it as a collective challenge rather than an individual one. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized that I did not need to rise early and stay up late, buy fields and manage the household, all while rocking toned arms, in order to be a good Christian. We each have our calling and our place within the body of Christ, and God calls us to be a collective success. I can celebrate that my neighbor is more tuned in to the details of what’s happening in the neighborhood and that my colleague has a different specialty than I do. My friends can teach Sunday school, cook church dinners, plan events, and prepare sermons, while I write books and volunteer with the refugee ministry. When we come together in community, we transcend what any of us could do individually and move together as a whole body in a rhythmic flow that serves God’s purposes. An emphasis on individual achievement tends to feed perfectionistic thinking and encourages comparisons. A collective focus joins us more intimately with the purpose of loving God and one another well.
As you reflect on Proverbs 31, consider what your one part in the collective calling could be and how you could take one step today to live that out. Release yourself from the unrealistic expectation of being every part of this calling at once. Instead of using it as a perfectionistic yardstick for your worth as a Christian, let it be an invitation to find your place in a community of believers, bigger and more effective than what you can do alone.
God, show me one part of the collective calling that you have just for me, and help me take a step today to live into it. Amen.
Proverbs describes the noble wife and sets a standard that can seem impossible. This woman is capable and respected but also generous and wise. She serves but is not weak. Is she a “superwoman,” and do all women need to be “superwomen”? No, she is noble because she follows the counsel of the psalmist and is deeply rooted in the teachings of God. Therefore, she represents a standard for everyone to emulate, not just women. James, another teacher of wisdom, encourages believers to show these same characteristics by following the wisdom given by God. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples display a lack of wisdom by arguing over who is the greatest. Jesus reminds them that greatness in God’s eyes comes through service, not through seeking recognition.
Read Proverbs 31:10-31. How have societal expectations shaped your life? How do you allow them to shape the ways you interact with others?
Read Psalm 1. What fruit are you yielding in this season?
Read James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a. In what ways does your life reflect “gentleness born of wisdom”? How are you gentle with yourself and with others?
Read Mark 9:30-37. How do you seek to serve others in your daily life?
Responda publicando una oración.