Women are such a beautiful creation of God, given an awesome capacity for nurturing and making any place feel like “home.” For many of us, it’s in our nature to see the needs of others and try to meet them, whether physical or emotional.
As I understand it, in Jewish thought, a wife (bayit) is a man’s “house” representing the household and his food and shelter. For around nine months, a woman’s body is her baby’s “house,” nurturing and nourishing the child as he grows. And for mothers who are parenting alone, the idea of a woman being a “house” seems even more true, as she is stretched to be the protector and provider for her family as well as everything else. And you don’t gave to have a partner or children to be a house: all the single women I know are remarkable at bringing a magical effect into the lives of those around them; celebrating their friends’ birthdays, cooking for people, and spending time listening to the struggles of others and offering encouragement. It seems that women come by this naturally, bringing a bit of home with them wherever they go.
Is it because of these extraordinary gifts that we are more vulnerable to the deception of the enemy? He tells us, sometimes through the mouths of other women, that we need to do more, be better, do it differently. That our tenderness and our emotions are weakness, and that our strength is in achieving everyone else’s ideals, doing it all ourselves, creating a world where we don’t need a man as much as we need a glass of wine.
Once we realize that the enemy’s goal is to tear down families and destroy our self-confidence, it’s easier to see the ways he slips in to erode the very value we have as women. Sometimes it takes the form of extreme feminism, pushing women to dishonor their bodies and their value by destroying the life growing inside them, or displaying an over-sexualized image, or seeking money and power as the highest goal. But it can also come in the form of legalism surrounding what it means to be a “biblical” single woman or wife and mother, keeping women squeezed tightly into ideals that are based on her appearance and works. (Isn’t it interesting how, at the end of the day, both extremes boil down to the same elements.)
As part of my research for this series, I read a book about hospitality published a decade or more ago. It’s a fairly innocuous book of encouragement and tips, where the author begins by explaining that we don’t have to be perfect to be hospitable. I agree, I thought, and read on until I reached a surprising section where she advised that the way to be a more confident hostess was to “get up earlier and stay up later” to get more done! Citing the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 whose candle never seems to go out, the well-meaning author revealed that she still believes the way to find our feminine calling is to do more work.
Friends, I think it is so important to look inside ourselves and find our true value. The beautiful feminine nature God created is in our very DNA. Even so, we keep striving, looking for the perfect number (weight on the scale, ounces of water, miles walked, minutes of quality time, books read aloud, it goes on and on), trying to accomplish everything, trying to be enough. I don’t write this series to pile more guilt on. Yes, we often do burn the candle at both ends to keep our homes running smoothly. Yes, we are seeking to build our houses day by day rather than tear them down, seeking God to find the strength we need to keep going. Life is difficult and challenging wherever you live it. But perhaps we can find grace here together — rest from doing it all, peace to just be who you were made to be, with your own giftings and personality.
You are already enough — you are a house. A shelter, a dwelling, a home, a sanctuary.
As we build together in the coming weeks, I hope you will be gentle with yourself. I pray that you find grace in your walk with God to build a beautiful house that looks like you, with Christ as the foundation stone. It seems to me that it’s not about doing more work, but about shifting our mindsets to live into who God made us to be. Welcome home.