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.