“And now, my daughter, fear not: I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” Ruth 3:11
If you’re a mother or even just a woman, have you ever stopped to wonder what it means to be a virtuous woman? I have. Especially recently. I’ve been stopping and asking the Lord what His design is for me as a woman. And here I find an example in Ruth of a virtuous woman. Was she just a moral woman who met everyone’s expectations as a woman, a wife and a mother? Or is a virtuous woman something more?
I mean, think about Ruth, foreigner married to a man from another country living in her own homeland where she is comfortable. Her husband dies and she chooses to cling to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and to make her people her own and Naomi’s God her own. She leaves all that she knows and comes to a land where she has nothing and noone but Naomi. She takes care of Naomi as though she were her own flesh and blood. She adapts to the ways of Naomi’s people. She labors hard in the fields every day just to eat. She doesn’t complain. She works and serves with such a spirit that everyone notices. They even notice that she is self-controlled and not busy with trying to find a new husband. They can see that the most important thing for her is caring for Naomi. They see the love and service evidenced in everything she does. And what they see, they call virtuous.
Virtuous doesn’t mean morality. It’s not just about doing the right thing. Virtuous is valour. It’s strength. It’s a word used of warriors. Ruth is being called a valourous woman. She’s a warrior woman. She protects and holds fast the safety and welfare of those around her. She’s like a warrior protecting her nation, only her nation is those people God has placed into her life, and as she clings to Him, He teaches her how to cling to them as He clings to us and cares for us.
I’m a woman. And I know I’m far from perfect. And Ruth, even as a valourous woman, wasn’t perfect either. I know that because there is only One who is good and perfect and right, and that’s You, Lord. But thank You, Lord, that You are bringing us to be more like You every day through every circumstance. And a family with children is one of the best circumstances to grow and learn through.
But I want to understand Your idea of valour, of virtue, of a woman warrior better, because sometimes it’s just really hard being a woman, or a mother, or a wife. I need to know how You designed me. So I’m going back to Genesis before the fall.
In Genesis 2 we see God making this statement, and this is something we need to reallly think about. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” God is saying that not even man, nor woman, nor any person is sufficient to bear His image alone. Man was not created to bear God’s image one by one, because there is no unity in selfishness. Unity, like that of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit comes in cooperation and working as one unit, in oneness like God. To bear God’s image, man and woman were created to cooperate with God and each other. There is a mutual surrendering and mutual love and caring just as God responds withing the trinity. At least, that was how we were designed.
I know this because woman was taken out of the body of Adam just as the source of Adam was God Himself. It was not good that Adam would be a separate appendage of the body, missing the other appendages that would make him whole. Sounds like the body of Christ, right? But it gets better!
God parades all the animals for Adam to name, and not just that. God is helping Adam to see something about Himself that God already knows. Adam comes to recognize his aloneness. Now he is ready to receive his help meet for him. So God brings forth Eve of Adam’s own body. And Adam recognizes her in excitement. “Wow! Now this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! This woman is part of me!” This was unity before the fall.
But understand what Adam understood as his help meet. The Hebrew words are ezer kenegdo. And they are not weak words. They are not words that mean that Eve was less than Adam. These are strong and powerful words. Ezer is a word that is used of God in the Old Testament. It’s a warrior word. It’s a word that tells of God sweeping down and rescuing Israel when all the odds are against them and it seems impossible. It’s when God just sweeps in and defeats the vast enemy armies just like that, no problem at all. That’s ezer. It’s a word of warrior strength and caring for Your people like that. And what about kenegdo? Kenegdo means standing face to face. Adam and Eve were designed to see each other face to face and appreciate each others giftings and persons as equally valued. Neither one was to be more or less than the other. It’s that idea of esteeming others above yourself and giving honor, not expecting it. It’s based on a relationship like the right hand is to the left hand or like the right wing of a plane is to the the left wing. We were designed to be coheirs, and corulers because we were designed to rely on each other as we trust each other and rely and trust in God.
Women were designed to have their husbands backs and to protect them and care for them. But women were also designed to have their families backs and to protect them and care for them like a warrior. Think about it. Adam and Eve had this and loved this relationship, until….they focussed on something other than delighting in God and obeyed someone else’s voice. The moment trust in God was destroyed, trust in one another was destroyed, and that’s where we are today. It’s why our marriages struggle, and our children fall away. But our call is still the same. God is calling us to be who He created us to be. He is still calling us as ezer kenegdos. He designed us to be his warriors for our families and friends and neighbors and enemies. He is still calling us to follow Him instead of our own ways, His desire instead of ours. What if our husbands won’t listen. Will we still listen and follow? What if our children won’t listen. Will we still listen and follow and faithfully trust and set the example of valor and virtue and trust in Him?
I can’t guarantee that there won’t be disappointments. Jesus told us there would be. But what if through it all, we responded as the ezer kenegdo, as that valorous warrior God designed us to be? I wonder if one day, Proverbs 31:10 would come true and our children and our husbands would call us blessed? Well, I don’t really hear it a lot, and sometimes I wonder because I often feel like I’m missing the mark, but God is so sweet that when I feel my lowest, He sends those times of refreshing, and I have heard that promise in Proverbs 31 come true a couple times. And when I was struggling just this past month, one of my daughters who God uses to encourage me in some of my most down times sent this birthday message on Face book- “Happy birthday to my very special, very joyous mother. She taught me quite a bit about school, but a whole lot more about Jesus and love and grace and faith, and how to be a wife and a mother and how to serve and encourage. She taught me a lot about joy and smiling and having fun, and not being ashamed to be silly. Happy birthday, Mommy, I love you!'” You know what? For all the times of pain and doubt, it’s absolutely worth being God’s warrior for others and loving people that intensely. Because even though I don’t see the effects and know how I’m influencing someone else’s life, God is using it and He knows, and every now and then, He’ll give a glimpse back. And that glimpse is enough to keep me going for the sake of those around me and His glory and love. And I just pray that He’ll continually make me a woman that stands out as virtuous with His character to the the eyes of others and before Him as I seek to follow Him with all of my heart and all of my being by loving and caring for those He places around me. It’s not a simple task. But You, Lord, can equip me with everything I need to lead and love well, just like Ruth.