Woman of Valour, Eschet Chayil and Proverbs 31

This year my friend Katrina challenged me to choose 'one word' to help define and shape the oncoming 12 months. After a lot of faffing about and writing down about 50 things I finally settled on eschet chayil.

When I told her what my word was, she groaned. "You're such an overachiever!" 

Maybe so, but it just seemed to be right. Eschet Chayil means Woman of Valour in Hebrew and it's used in the well known Old Testament Proverbs 31 passage.

I've had a long and happy association with Proverbs 31. A housemother in Junior High School gave each of her girls a verse when she left one year. "They're specific to each of you," she said. (It was true - I checked.)

My verse was Proverbs 31:10 and when I read the whole passage I loved it. Here was a woman doing heaps of cool things with energy, enthusiasm, organisation, power, responsibility and authority. Here was a woman well-regarded in her community, achieving things, doing good, valued in her family and loved by those around her. I was smitten. Plus I had more reasons for spending hours doing patchwork.

"That's who I'm going to be," I said to myself. 

When, several years later, I studied it in a bible study group with 7 or so other women, I couldn't believe it when they felt intimidated and small.

"Who can live up to that?" I heard said over and over. "That's too hard to do."

I was confused. I never read it as a list of things to do, or a standard to reach. (Because let's face it: it's not possible to everything she does all at once. And besides, she had househelp. Give me a cleaner, a cook and a babysitter and I could do all of it tomorrow...)

I'd read it as a list of possibilities. In my mind, this was a list of what you could do. "The world is open to you," I read. "You're not restricted to one narrow area of life if you don't want to be. You can be a craftswoman, a teacher, an administrator, a pastoral carer, a charity-worker, an entrpreneur, a business woman, a real estate investor or an agricultural expert if you want. You don't have to be scared of success or wealth, or limit yourself unnecessarily. And you can love your children and husband at the same time."

At the head of it all was this phrase eschet chayil, which doesn't really translate overly well into English - at least not in the Bible versions I've read. Yes, it can mean 'virtuous', but there's strength, valour and girding loins for battle in there as well.

My maiden name is Thew, which means 'muscle or sinew' and I've never had the long, delicate body shape that's in fashion. I'm more the nuggety, sausagey kind of person. (If I lifted weights and took steroids, I'd look pretty scary pretty quickly.) So I really like the idea of strength as a woman, because that's how I'm built naturally, and I like to think God knew what he was doing and I'm not some kind of female oddity.

So this year I picked eschet chayil as my word. I want to put some muscle into quite a few things, get over some hurdles and face what comes with the valour God's given me. It'll be interesting to see what opportunities get opened up with an attitude of strength and valour, and what I'll learn along the way.

Did you pick a word? What was it?

*And, what a completely awesome necklace. I think I just might have to ask for one for my BIG birthday coming up.