Eshet chayil – woman of valor.
I turn the question over this morning on my way through the frosted trees. The sun is slow to rise this morning, unruly, as if it, too, is tired after the snowfall last night. I sip the gingerbread latte – my nod to the season, to the red Starbucks cups, to the closeness of Christmas. I don’t know why I’m wondering about this phrase in particular – woman of valor – but I know about it from the women that start to come to mind – Nish, and Sarah, Lisa-Jo, and Rachel, Ann, Antonia, Elora - and then I realize I know them from across my life, not just across the threads of connection, electricity firing across miles to bring our words to each other.
I know them in my mother, wisdom spilling out as she leans back across the end of my bed and reminds me of the way that we are meant to trust God. I know them in my sister, who texts me to remind me she is here and loves me, who raises her son with such patience and grace that I am sometimes speechless at it. I know it in the women who have colored and changed my life by their knowing me – from breakfasts sophomore year to Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping at the Pentagon City Mall to a walk in the woods and tea on her couch to hours of talk about racial reconciliation and education and what it must mean to love God and to believe that we are to know Jesus by what we do with our hands.
And I could not stop thinking about it, the words sounding over and over again in my head. Eshet chayil – woman of valor.
How do you become a woman of valor? How do you become the fiercer truth-teller, the wiser grace-giver, the woman who spills out light wherever you walk because you cannot help but do that?
Because she is brave, this woman of valor. She will wear red lipstick on a too-early morning and put on a blue puffer coat to shovel the walk. She will stand in front of the room and teach. She will preach the truth over coffee or wine, across the sale racks at the consignment shop or in her office with mugs of tea in front of you and rain outside. She will strike out on her own to chase down a dream in New York, in California. She will sing Sara Bareilles in the car and pull up next to a man in a large truck, who will stare at her and laugh, and she will be unashamed. She is brave. She takes the time with you, again and again, to work out the trembling bits, to ask every question or none at all, and she reminds you that there is nothing for it but to live deep and wide and full, wherever you are. She is unafraid of the truth and unafraid to chase it down, across the mountains and rivers, in the hardest moments, in the lightest ones.
I know so many women of valor, I realize. I wonder if they know that they are. I wonder if they know, sitting at the table in Panera or drinking tea in my office or driving in my car on our way back from coffee. I wonder if they know, who have taught me the way grace feels and moves in a life, have taught me that being brave is worth it, in their questions and their laughter and the way they love.
I pull my car into the parking space, cut the engine, let the song finish playing from the speakers. I wonder if becoming a woman of valor has something to do with hope, with singing along with Sara and reading the good words of the women who have taught me what valor looks like.
Maybe I can begin in the hope to be more like them. To learn the shape of their kindness, their graciousness, their fierce love of the truth. Their courage.
I begin in the smaller prayer, just as I walk up the steps to begin my day. Lord, might you make me a woman of valor?