Once upon a time, there was a small village filled with a tight knit community of people, surrounded by a large metropolis full of many people from all different backgrounds and cultures. In this small village lived a well-respected family in the house of Revere. A house long established in that town that had withstood many trials and changing seasons. This house had the respect, love, and admiration from not only the other townspeople, but from travelers far and wide, who knew this house would always be welcoming to them at any time. In this particular story, we examine three members who abide in this home, and the life lessons we can learn about how to live and interact with each other. This allegory depicts the joys and struggles women face on their journey to find contentment, fulfilled longing, and dignity in their person.
Oh, what a happy child Contentment is! She is still so young, and has much of her life yet to live with so many adventures to encounter! Yet, she is close to adolescence and will begin to see many changes in herself and her outlook of life. What she learns in these next crucial years of her life, will either make or break her, and leave a lasting impression for eternity. Contentment has been taught by her mother to be satisfied and full of joy, in whatever circumstance she faces. She is blessed to grow up in the safety and security of a loving home. She cannot stay here forever though. One day she will leave her home and live in the world as a grown woman interacting with and encountering others. Contentment sees what marriage is like through others and hopes for it someday. She gathers wisdom on the subject and stores it for safe keeping until an appropriate time. As we spend more and more time with Contentment, and as she begins to spend time with us, we have a huge role in how we shape her character. We don’t realize how much of an influence we have on her little mind and heart! She is just like a sponge soaking up everything we teach and share with her. Contentment’s married friends share with her the importance of keeping Christ at the center of everything she does. She has learned from them, that one cannot expect to get the desires of her heart without first being so consumed by Christ. If she wants to be married one day, then she must have such an intimate relationship with Him before that can happen; if she wants to travel, she must first have a firm foundation of the teachings in scripture to help guide her way; and if she wants true joy, she must be satisfied with whatever God gives her, whether great or small, in order to find fulfillment. The knowledge she has gained from her married friends seems invaluable to her; but Contentment is also experiencing confusion. You see, Contentment has an older sister named Longing. Contentment can recall very well some of the situations Longing found herself in; in fact, she had a front row seat to the experiences her sister had to endure. Struggling to understand, Contentment talked with her single friends to find out more information about why her sister’s life was so different from the way her married friends had described life to be like. Contentment’s single friends had a very close relationship with Longing and willingly shared how similar their lives were. It was hard for all the single friends and married friends to hang out together, because their lives seemed so different that there was no way for them to be compatible. All the single friends were strong Christians who loved the Lord just as much as those who were married, but they had no life partner. The life formula that Contentment’s married friends had shared with her, did not seem to work in the life of her unmarried friends. They had just as intimate a relationship with the Lord; they had just as strong of a biblical foundation; and they had learned how to juggle joy in the midst of want and plenty – and yet they remained unmarried. That night Contentment went to bed a little more uneasy than the night before. Our response to Contentment will either drive her towards a greater intimacy with Christ, or turn her into her older sister Longing. Contentment knows she needs a firm and solid foundation built on the work of Christ, but we must not promise Contentment that the desires of her heart will be granted when she is completely sold-out for Christ. We must remind Contentment that God in His goodness and infinite wisdom and creativity made all people unique, and made the experiences in their life just as unique and special. No two people in the world will have all of the exact same experiences in the exact same timeline as another. Her life is like a fingerprint – none other are like her – and to try and force her into a mold of how we might have lived our life could crush her delicate spirit. Contentment can never be replaced by a better substitute. She is a child in the house of Revere, and so very special. May our prayers be drenched in her example. Oh that we would be more like her! For we could change the world if we used her properly!
Contentment as mentioned earlier has a older sister, who, though taught the same principles, has seen herself walk a very different path than what she envisioned herself on; because her struggle for contentment is put into practice day-by-day, and even moment-by-moment. Someday, Contentment may grow up to be like her older sister. Only time will tell whether that will be the case. Where Contentment was fair-skinned, delicate, and pure, her sister Longing was not often characterized in the same manner. Longing has been through the trenches in life, and has not emerged unscathed. Her beauty may not be as apparent on the outside, but inside she is a woman of courage and steel. Longing not only received some of the same advice as her younger sister, she lived through some practical experiences that showed her exactly what they meant. Longing understands the importance of an intimate relationship with Christ, but has also lived through the loneliness of being a single woman desiring to be married. This is what makes her such a great friend to both those who are married and single. However, as the days pass by, Longing becomes more fearful that her childhood dreams may never become a reality. Although strong and full of perseverance, if not careful, we may cause her to feel squashed and defeated by how we respond to her. Longing, like her sister, lives in all of us, and often leads her little sister through the challenges this life has to offer. She has the same desire as us – to experience a deep connection with another person. This desire is hardwired into most of us and why God says in the book of Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone. How much of an effect do we have on her? Longing has the potential to turn to shame and despair if we tell her that she is sin and must be removed from our lives. Longing itself is not sin. Remember, it is what we do with her that determines that factor. Therefore she has two options to live by. She can be so consumed by a desire that it overtakes her and turns into idolatry where she will never be satisfied; or she can place herself at the feet of Jesus and wait to hear how the story of her life unfolds. All of us struggle with something in this life. The bible is filled with such terms as: running, enduring, wrestling, struggling, contending, sacrificing, and the like. If we forced Longing to live the cookie-cutter lifestyle, she would have a very weak faith because it never would be tested by fire to see how strong she really is, and her relationship with God would be so superficial, there would be no need for Him to prove Himself faithful. I truly believe the Lord has a special place in His heart for Longing. Where joy comes easy to Contentment and sitting at His feet is where she would rather be; Longing has to struggle for that same joy. She openly voices her concerns to Jesus, and is not content with a superficial faith that lets her get by in this life. She is a beloved daughter in the house of Revere. The bible speaks many times about how the weak things of this world will shame the wise, and that the prize will be given to the one who runs the race with endurance. That is the kind of life Longing lives. Her name earns her our respect. Her example earns her our love.
Dignity has lived long in the house of Revere, and bears the physical and emotional presence of a life lived in such a worthy manner to be called a child of that house. As the mother of Contentment and Longing, the house of Revere would not be whole without her guidance. She has named her daughter’s after lessons she herself has learned, and continually imparts stories of wisdom to them about how she navigated the trenches of life and battled to have those two important traits. Without Dignity, Contentment and Longing would never have been born in the first place. Dignity is a rare gem, who understood from a very young age to be proud of who she is, even when others laughed at her and told her she was obsolete. You see, Dignity like her daughter’s, longed to be married and have a family of her own since she was a little girl. As she grew, she was bullied by those who had taken their contentment in singleness to the extreme or who had longed so much for a dream that could never be. Dignity however, pressed on, and believed that the Lord would grant her whatever He had planned, which would be the best for her. Dignity’s dream did come true and she married a wonderful man named Honor. She was such a treasure to him! He loved her like no one ever did before because she was so valuable to him; and he was respected everywhere he went because Dignity respected him. Dignity was once a single girl. She climbed the corporate ladder and was very good at her work. She grew in the understanding of herself when she learned not to be shy about her true desires and her longing to be a wife and mother. In fact, the reason her and her household were so well respected was because she often shared with others her belief in the importance of family. She believed it is not degrading for a woman to leave the workforce, but empowering and life-giving to not only her immediate family, but to her community as well in such a way she could never do on her own. Dignity now encourages her husband to be the best husband and father possible, helping him in this endeavor. She teaches her daughters that in whatever path they find themselves on in life, they are important and needed. She teaches them by example and warns of the inherent dangers their natures encompass.
Women in the 21st century are not very different from the women depicted in this story. We are surrounded by a metropolis of ideas and values as vast and different as the ever-changing colors of a sunset. We are pushed and pulled and shoved into so many ideas that tell us where our value lies. Even among Christian circles, the ideas of how to be a godly Proverbs 31 woman differ depending on whom you speak to. This story is a collection of thoughts and ideas that have bounced in my mind as I interact with people on a day-by-day basis. It is a result of the influence culture has had on me – both good and bad. It is a call to question and check why we believe what we believe and to examine how our ideas impact others in the following areas:
– Contentment and the promise of a companion
– Longing and the sense of shamefulness, leading us to believe we are in sin
– Dignity’s success dependent on the standards of our culture
How we utilize and respond to contentment, longing, and dignity in our lives will say much about who we really are. We are fighting a battle in these areas that have a global impact, and will infiltrate every person and every culture for either better or worse, depending on who prevails.
Victor Hugo in his timeless book “Les Miserables” beautifully captures in words the summarization of the story above. He wrote:
“You look at a star for two reasons,
because it is luminous,
and because it is impenetrable.
You have beside you a sweeter radiance
and a greater mystery – woman.”