Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Imperfect Elizabeth

I was once told that it takes 21 days to change a habit.  I have since stopped believing that saying after three years of doing a Daniel Fast that did nothing but push me to binge on meats and brownies and deep fried foods once the fast was over.  It would probably take 90 days of consistent commitment for anything to make a lasting, permanent change in my life (forget the no sugar 90-day diet; I have cheated atleast 3 times in the past 2 weeks).  And so, I'm really quite proud that even though I take breaks on the weekends from waking and rising early and stretching, once the weekday begins, I am back on track.  Yesterday morning was rather emotional for me.  I bent down and touched my toes.  I am not a crying woman, which is something I'm working on, but I was overwhelmed with emotion when the tip of my fingers reached farther than I could have expected this early on in the game.  I mean, there I was, bending, touching my toes, bending, touching my toes.  I thought, "My Lord, I should've been video-chronicling this journey to perfection!"

I was really proud of myself until I crossed the Verrazzano Bridge into the Belt Parkway.  I am an avid Star 99.1 listener and I am absolutely enamored with Pastor Rob Cruver who does the "Go For It" every morning right after "Name Five Things." He talks about simple rather rhetorical things but they are relatable and he ends his messages with "Let's go for it!" For example, he could talk about the cloudy weather and say something about how sometimes our lives can be cloudy and isn't it wonderful that our Heavenly Father is the constant, bright Sun that lights up our clouded day and so, if we're feeling down and depressed under a heavy, emotional cloud, just look up to the sky and know that the Lord is there to brighten our day. Let's go for it!

I often wonder what it would be like to sit in a Cafe with my decaf coffee with Rob Cruver while he infuses me with "Go For It" words of simple wisdom but then I think neither his wife nor my husband would approve.  A few people dabble with infidelity and the rest of us women can't throw caution to the wind and have an innocent breakfast with soft spoken men like Rob Cruver!  Anyway, Rob Cruver started his message by talking about how he grudgingly got out of bed early in the morning to join a few friends for prayer but once he was there, what a prayer it was! I didn't hear the rest because my mind quickly wandered to my own morning prayer.  A repeated, half asleep chant of, "Thank you, Lord. Hallelujah, hallelujah" is the gist of my meditation and I thought, "I wonder if God notice?" And of course, I know the answer to that.

I think to myself, where is this Elizabeth?  Why has she come to torment me and remind me daily of my shortcomings and my imperfections? I got out of the house proud of touching my toes and here I was feeling less than accomplished because Rob Cruver had inadvertently uncovered my pseudo morning prayers recited daily not to connect with God but to appease my convictions. When was I going to get this right?!  I had a sudden vision of gathering everyone in my house and proposing that we collectively rise at 6 in the morning and pray for half an hour until Easter.  I obviously need a community to help me with this thing.  But then I pictured my sister's quizzical face and my brother-in-law's flustered look and finally, my husband's exhausted eyes and I thought, "Forget it, I'm obviously on my own in this thing!"

Later that day at work I told our Jewish speech therapist about my quest for Elizabeth, the perfect one of Proverbs 31.  She said, "The woman of valour?  That's who a Jewish woman is supposed to aspire to become." I nodded.  It was encouraging to know that I was not alone.  Then I thought of the Jewish, career women I know who have more than five children and run a business on the side and I wanted to throw my hands up in the air in utter defeat.

"That was Abraham's eulogy for Sarah," she said.  For Sarah?  But it was written in the book of Proverbs.  "Yes, Solomon took Abraham's eulogy for Sarah and wrote that poem for his mother."

Elizabeth was Sarah?  The Sarah who laughed when it was told that she would get pregnant at an old age?  The Sarah who doubted God who was also less than merciful to her servant, Hagar? And Elizabeth was Bathsheba?  The Bathsheba who David committed adultery with and whose husband David murdered?  Bathsheba was a representation of sin and temptation, wasn't she?

I couldn't believe my ears.  Sarah and Bathsheba.  Bathsheba and Sarah. 


I felt God speak to my heart.  Pursue virtue.  Pursue greatness.  But don't be too hard on yourself.  The woman you seek to become was less than perfect.

"Thank you," I said to the speech therapist.  "I didn't know any of that."

But now I do, and this morning I got up to pray and although my prayer was short somehow God felt nearer, closer, ever present.  I didn't feel like I was on a quest to reach the top of a measuring stick.  I'm still on a quest for the Virtuous Woman but somehow she's so much more human and less fictional.  A woman more attainable and less judgmental.  An imperfect Elizabeth.


  1. Anyone can now comment on these blogs. Thanks guys for your patience!

  2. WOW! ATE! WOW! What an impressive discovery! To think that God has led you thus far to just know ... there ain't no perfect woman, only one that God uses despite her imperfections.

    Great stuff. Keep it coming!

  3. 4 hours agoKatucha Carmelle Kolbjornsen
    I have to admit to you ....I personally always felt deep down in my heart that all women in all walks of life are virtuous, though we may be rich, poor, attractive, unattractive ( whatever that may be), secure, insecure, modest, or trashy, our lives paint a story and we are uniquely made and we are all imperfect yet perfect in God's eye. Elizabeth is who she is because that's her willingness and mindset that attracts you, but you as Anna Marie is intellectual, beautiful, strong willed, blessed, spiritual, vibrant, luminous, and hardworking. Can I be you? no, but you have qualities that may not be my strength but they are attractive to me because there are things about your character do not uphold, the same may go for me, I may have qualities that no one can ever have. Point is.. we are all Elizabeth's in our won right and as long as we strive to be better Christians and love like God love's us we are peculiar. I love the blogs Ate... Keep them coming. I don't know how to add my email to the blog so that's why I'm ambushing your msg space, hehehe!

  4. I am trying to post this comment and I hope that it would get in...This is truly a work of a genius person...Daddy

  5. This is eye opening and def a must read for many more women. I am glad to have read this. Thanks for the courage to be so transparent and share it. Gods blessings unto you. Peace.

  6. Thanks so much, everyone! I remember getting genuinely happy when I talked to my Jewish co-worker. I was excited to know that the Virtuous Woman was a real woman and that she had flaws like me. But the Bible still recognized her to be superbly great. There was something about that discovery that was freeing for me.

  7. Ok. So it seems that the idea is to strive your entire life. The idea is to attempt to reach her level of perfection, not necessarily to reach it. As long as you are making the attempt, you have achieved your goal.

  8. What does perfection mean to you though?

  9. I missed this question, Maria, and it's a real good one. I think perfection for me is exactly what Proverbs 31 describes. A strong, confident, beautiful woman who is intelligent, successful and is a good wife and mother and above all else, loves and reveres her God. And with that comes all these sub-requirements like, she is kind, giving, compassionate, etc., A woman who can not only do it all but is great at all of it and manages, miraculously, to stay stunning. Yea, almost a fictional character really. This is not to say that I think all women should aspire to be this way but for me, if at all possible (which clearly it isn't!)it would be my personal bar for perfection. I'm exhausted just thinking about it and at the end of the day thankful that it isn't a Godly requirement, but just a personal desire--or more so a wishful thinking. lol.

  10. My mistake was assuming that the Virtuous Woman was flawless and clearly if I am to go by the Jewish Orthodox interpretation of proverbs 31, she was not. And what a relief!

  11. Whoops, forgot to subscribe to this comment feed and I missed your response. lol. (Now we are even!).

    Here is my reaction thought.

    -strong, confident and *beautiful*- Beauty is totally subjective. I know from your previous post about the designer handbag that you, like me and lots of other women struggle for what MAINSTREAM MEDIA tells you looks 'together' looks 'beautiful'. By putting a high price tag, they create the false image that something elite is something you need to earn... and only certain women who work hard enough, or marry 'well enough' deserve.

    I think there is a lot of emphasis in your blog and your quest to be a centered and spiritual woman using her gifts to better herself as a mother, as an working member of our society, as a wife and as a part of her global church family.

    But I also think there is a lot of emphasis on LOOKING like you have it all together.

    I am by no means criticizing. Just wondering if you feel the same way.

    I know that personally sometimes I tend to work harder at looking like I'm successful and centered, then doing the hard emotional/mental/spiritual work of BEING successful and centered.

  12. My off-balance is actually quite the contrary, I think. I do want to "look" as in "physically look" like I have it together because half the time I'm put together like a derailed train! I think that is coming through in these blogs and that's actually intentional on my part because that's part of the fantasy for me. lol. My whole life has been poured into church, family and career and very little time has been invested in me--the more superficial me, or maybe, the more "important" me. I am always astounded when I meet high profile women who are also mothers and somehow manage to keep themselves in the equation. The Virtuous Woman seems to have that, a balance of both external and internal greatness while maintaining her physical beauty. And I always wondered, how in the heavens is that done? I mean, I'm sure a handful do get that done, but how?? lol. That's the journey for me and the bewildering part of this pursuit.