Sometimes, it’s personal. It really is. Recognising that Christian women must have courage at least equal to that of men touches very deeply on my own personal story.
I’ve needed more courage than I ever thought possible to face the situations that have come my way in life; needed to be an eshet chayil, a woman of valour. I’ve needed to hold close to God through tougher times than I ever imagined. Sometimes – all too often – I’ve failed, and struggled to see at the time that God was there or that He cared for me at all. Running away to a hidey hole and waiting for the storm to pass usually hasn’t been an option. I’ve had to stand in the midst of the howling wind and driving rain, meeting what life blew in my direction.
I’m not one to blow my own trumpet. What I’m about to share is not something I share lightly. But in working through this series on eshet chayil, I’ve felt God tapping me on the shoulder. “That’s you.”
“Um…yeah, well, I’ve just done what needed to be done, haven’t I? Nothing special, really, just what was necessary.”
“That’s you. Eshet chayil, that’s you, my beloved daughter.”
Oh. And the penny has dropped that just as I struggle to hear compliments from others (and am all too ready to hear my own self-critical voice), I’ve equally struggled to hear God’s blessing on me. Sometimes – perhaps more often than not – just accepting what life throws your way without running away or giving up is courage. In other circumstances, deciding to say no to a person or situation and walking away is the act of courage.
As I thought about this, I reflected on just a few of the seasons in my past decade when I have needed to hear this.
I stood in the Pinnaroo Cemetery chapel to give a eulogy at my younger sister’s funeral, after her sudden and unexpected death – she was far too young. I don’t know quite how, but I found the strength to speak through my pain and do her memory justice. Eshet chayil.
While my husband was recovering from major surgery, I opened our business alone, working 70-80 hour weeks in the “quiet” periods – and more hours around Christmas time, a physically and mentally draining time of my life. Eshet chayil.
Only months after opening the shop, I witnessed my husband having a massive, terrifying seizure. This set us on a roller coaster ride for the next few months. I continued to keep the business running while trying to get to hospital 2-3 times a day to keep his spirits up. At times, I was so exhausted that when walking to the car at the end of the day, I truly struggled to put one foot in front of another. Eshet chayil.
As a result of the medical crisis which followed that seizure, I shakily made the unthinkable phone call to a lawyer to come to my husband’s hospital bedside that Friday to make a will, in case he didn’t survive risky brain surgery on Monday morning. Eshet chayil.
After my husband’s recovery, we embarked on an IVF journey, involving daily needles, blood tests and ultrasounds every couple of days, various medications, invasive tests and procedures, a potentially serious illness as a result of reactions to some of the treatment, and overwhelming hopes and fears. Eshet chayil.
Throughout the period when I was grieving for my sister, starting up the business, dealing with my husband’s illness, coping with IVF, and then throughout a difficult pregnancy and transition to new motherhood, I continued to run a ministry to girls in my “spare” time. Eshet chayil.
I was unable to help in our business with a newborn baby to care for. My husband was pushing himself to the limits, working long hours without any suitably trained person to fall back on. Exhaustion was a known risk factor for further seizures. If he had had a major seizure, a stretched-to-the-limits life would have become absolutely impossible. I chose to protect my husband as much as possible from the night-time effects of a baby with chronic reflux who could literally cry all night long. Eshet chayil.
I struggled to care for an increasingly mobile little one while I was experiencing a deteriorating spinal condition which made every normal action of motherhood, such as changing nappies or picking up a dropped toy, incredibly painful and frustrating. I had surgery to insert an artificial disc when he was just 18 months old. (One of the best decisions of my life, by the way!) Eshet chayil.
This is just a very small snapshot of part of my past decade, and I won’t bore you with the whole story. To face all of that (and so much more!) without courage in my toolbox would have been unthinkable…even impossible. God has given me a great capacity to simply endure what comes my way when I need to. That’s a gift. And a blessing (especially when the circumstances themselves don’t feel at the time like a blessing at all).
You may be called to smaller acts of courage, or far greater ones. But every one of us will need to face life with courage at some point. Your journey won’t look like mine, but you still have a need to know that your Heavenly Father stands alongside you through it all, and declares His blessing over you.
However hard it may have been to see God in the midst of my circumstances, not only can I look back and see where God really made a way for me and my family, but I also see my Heavenly Father smiling down on me, hand on my shoulder, with His word of blessing: eshet chayil, my daughter, eshet chayil. And with that, I take my strength for the journey ahead.
Over to you: In what areas of life do you see yourself (or your wife, daughter, mother, other significant woman) as an eshet chayil? What enables you to go forward into life with courage?