I was riding in the car of a good friend once when he sincerely told me, "I used to be so jealous of your life. But I see all these things that you go through and I realize I would be destroyed if I were you. So, thank God for my life." I remember laughing and then stopping quickly and saying dryly, "Gee, thanks."
I stayed quiet in that short ride but I knew what he meant. I am not unfamiliar to heartfelt compliments: You have such a good marriage. You're so talented. Your children are beautiful. But I think those who know my life well enough know to stop short of completely envying what I have and wishing they wore my size 7 shoes.
For 3 months now I've wanted to be Elizabeth, the name I've given to the Virtuous Woman. But when I look closely at her life I think to myself, "Why in the world would you want that?" Sure, Elizabeth was above all honorable ones and she was wise and well favored and beautiful. Beautiful. I think of how lovely Bathsheba, the inspiration for Proverbs 31, must have been. A righteous king followed his animal instincts, murdered, and shamed himself because of her. An older man once asked my husband, "Who can resist a beautiful woman?" Not King David, apparently. And neither could any king who caught a glimpse of Sarah, the supposed real representation of the Virtuous Woman. Every king in every city wanted her and poor Abraham had to lie and deny that she was his wife for fear of his own life. (It is no wonder I am never going to be the Virtuous Woman. It has been ages since I was found irresistible by a king! So long now that the memory of it has escaped me.)
But as I wrote in detail in Blog 5, Bathsheba, I think might have lived a life of quiet desperation. Of course I could be wrong. She might have spent everyday in blissful hysteria but I highly doubt it. One thing I'm sure of, however, is that Sarah agonized for more than a decade about not having a child. For everything that she was, her beauty, her wisdom, her uniqueness, she experienced a sense of isolation and desperation that only barreness could bring. She must have felt lacking as an individual despite the accolades thrown her way because she failed to do what is expected of a woman--give birth. No wonder she was so bitter towards Hagar. A servant easily did what she, a woman of Valour, was powerless to do. And I think to myself, does Virtue and suffering come hand in hand? Why would I want Elizabeth's life for all that she had if it included all her suffering? But sometimes I wonder if perhaps I am not already Elizabeth.
On that particular ride with this good friend, his sentiment about my life, though ill-timed, was understandable. We were, after all, on the way to Columbia Hospital to see my little girl who was fighting for her life. And I suppose no one would have wanted to trade places with me in that exact moment. My friend had been there by our side when my husband lost his job from a Fortune 500 company and we struggled for the next year and a half living on an impoverished budget in a cramped apartment good only for anyone under five foot ten. And then, amidst the struggle, our son, our firstborn at a year and half was diagnosed with Diabetes.
I am not unfamiliar to suffering. That much I have in common with the Woman of Valour.
But I must admit that Proverbs 31 also describes a woman whose life seemed to be surrounded by love, filled with substance, and full of blessings. And this too, I have in common with the Woman of Valour. I am reminded of this right now as we get ready for our nightly family devotion. I have a son whose diabetes have not made him any less confident, any less talented. He started reading at the age of 3 and just ended 3rd grade the top of his gifted class. I have a daughter whose beauty draws instant favour and whose life, whose miraculous life, is an immeasurable gift in itself. And I am married to a man other men admire and wish to become and after 10 years of marriage, he still adores and worships the ground I walk on and we still share a love that is deep and unshakeable.
I am not unfamiliar to suffering but indeed my life is surrounded by love, filled with substance and full of blessings.
I am beginning to wonder if perhaps I may just be living the life of a Virtous Woman.