Years ago, I invited a friend to a women’s small group and she groaned with an audible sound of horror.
She was open to the idea at first. Read the Bible–fine. Invest in relationships with other Christian women–okay.
Then she asked me what study we were beginning and I told her the book was based on the Proverbs 31 woman.
That’s why she reacted.
She told me: “I. Hate. Her.”
But then I really listened to what was on her heart: Every year on Mother’s Day, the pastor preached about this incredible Proverbs 31 woman:
She wakes up when it’s still dark. She bakes and cooks. She buys land and tends it. She sews clothes. She doesn’t worry. When everyone else settles down to rest in the evening, she keeps right on doing, doing, doing…without complaint, exhaustion or emotional breakdown.
“I’ll never measure up to that. I get tired, soul-weary. I don’t like getting up before dawn. I am not a baker and I don’t really love to cook. I hate sewing. I worry. She makes me feel like a failure.”
Until that moment, I had a fairly congenial relationship with Proverbs 31.
But after that conversation, I began feeling the full weight of expectation and the realization that I don’t measure up either.
I like sleep. If it’s still dark outside, I send my children back to bed because, “it’s not morning yet.”
Sometimes I forget: birthday parties, appointments, emailed requests from my kids’ school to send in baked goods for fundraisers.
Even with three daughters, my sewing skills do not include outfitting my family for the entire winter.
Maybe I felt discouraged by the Proverbs 31 woman, too.
Maybe, compared to her, I was a failure also.
I feel this a little again today as I jump feet-first into the routine of a new year.
That first day back to school after winter break, after we’ve celebrated Christmas and counted down to midnight and switched over to a fresh calendar, that day can be the hardest day for me.
Last year, I ended this day in a mess of tears and told my husband how I’d worked like a crazy woman, keeping up a frantic pace, and I’d fallen so short.
Everything feels like it needs to be done Now, now, now!!
It’s all urgent! All necessary! All important!!!
Every goal and plan I’ve made for the new year demands immediate attention or a giant cloud of guilt hangs over my head and haunts my thoughts.
Read more. Clean more. Exercise more. Write more. Pray more. Journal more. Reach out more.
Make those calls I didn’t make during the Christmas break. Fill up the calendar with check-ups, appointments, and dentist visits.
Re-start all those routines I’ve let slide while my kids were home from school.
I’m on day one of my plans for 2017 and here I am again: I’m already behind.
So, in the middle of a day when I’m feeling rushed and crushed by expectations and agendas, I pause to remember this:
It doesn’t all need to happen right now.
It doesn’t all have to be done today.
We can all give ourselves some space and grace–some room to breathe.
That’s something the ever-resourceful, busy bee of a Proverbs 31 woman actually teaches me.
Because all that she accomplished didn’t happen on any single day of her life. This isn’t her 24-hour to-do list. This is the overview of a life’s work.
Proverbs 31 talks about the coming and going of seasons. She plants fields and later on she harvests them. She buys and sells businesses, sews clothes, makes meals and more.
But what she does, she does over time, in its appropriate season…and she doesn’t worry along the way about what’s to come or what’s left undone.
This is my choice today and every day in the new year. I can choose to feel like a failure, choose to be battered and beaten down by big-picture expectations and focus on what I haven’t done.
Or I can choose to let God lead me This Day.
I can choose, like the Proverbs 31 woman did, to value each season, to be productive in the right ways at the right time, and to worry less about the future and focus more on the tasks and the joys of the moment.
What do you have for me This Day, Lord?
How can I worship you This Day?
How can I be God-focused This Day?
What needs to be done This Day and what can I let go of without guilt?
In 2017, I want to value This Day every day.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 ESV).