Don’t you hate it when you get a Bible verse stuck in your mind, like a piece of food turning sideways in your throat on the way down? And you just know that God will not let you forget it until you face it head on; allow it to peel back your layers and reach inside your heart?
I’ve been doing a study on Proverbs 31 lately, using Pursuing Proverbs 31 by Amy Bayliss. What I’m enjoying about this particular study is the way Amy gets away from typical Proverbs 31 studies (which tend to go through each verse and talk about the practical applications for modern women) and instead she explores the deeper spiritual aspects of this well worn passage. It’s been truly eye-opening for me! (I’d be happy to loan my copy to any real-life friends.)
Two of the verses from Proverbs 31 that stand out to me at the moment (and by stand out to me, I mean, the Spirit is using them to prod me a lot) are verses 11 and 27:
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
I want to talk a bit about the latter verse today.
I’ve thought a lot about the particular phrasing of this verse – “the bread of idleness”. Why not just say “She watches over the affairs of her household and is not idle”? No, I believe the imagery of eating bread is employed for an important reason. Is there something wrong with eating bread? No, it is a staple of many diets. But it’s not particularly nutritious. And it wouldn’t be good for someone to only eat bread for a long time. Sure, they might survive, but they would be malnourished and weak after a while.
So how is this like idleness? Well, down time and relaxation are not inherently bad things. They are important things to build into life so we don’t burn out. But like bread, if all we do is relax and pursue our hobbies and generally blob around, it won’t be good for us. Akin to neglecting our bodies by denying it important nutrients, spending all our time in idleness will result in important areas of our life being neglected.
I have Proverbs 31:27 stuck to my laptop at the moment, because the internet is one of my biggest “idle” temptations.
(Some may note the irony of me discussing this – yep – on the internet. I don’t think all time spent on the internet is time being idle. For example, I spend time on the internet doing necessary tasks like emailing and banking, or connecting with people, or researching new ideas for the kids or house, or developing my writing through the blog. I don’t consider these things to always fall under the category of “idleness”, although they certainly can!)
The idea behind sticking it on my laptop was that I would see it and not open the laptop to go online during times I had other things that needed doing. But it hasn’t stopped me. Like putting on a band-aid because you’ve got internal bleeding, it has not really had any effect.
So I’m going looking deeper, wanting to find the real cause and solution for my “idleness” problem. And let’s just be really honest – it’s laziness.
I think laziness is one of those “acceptable” sins. When obvious, it makes a person quite ugly. But it’s easy to cover up and hide from people. It’s not immediately evident when looking at someone who struggles with laziness. And that makes it easy to not address it.
When I think to my own struggle with laziness, I think of all the things that get neglected because I have wasted time on idle activities.
What things get neglected? What makes up my day to day work?
Well, my current “position” is stay at home Mum, which means throughout the day I’m responsible for the nurture and discipline of our kids, cleaning the house, managing our finances, running errands, buying groceries, preparing food and generally keeping things running smoothly.
Yes, it’s a lot to do. Yes, a lot of it is boring.
There, I said it.
There’s nothing exciting about washing dishes three times a day. Or scrubbing the toilet. Or hanging washing. Or paying bills. Or changing nappies. Or… you get the point.
And I know that serving the Lord gives value to everything we do. I know that raising our children to love the Lord is one of the most important things anyone can do. I know that having a clean and orderly house makes my husband feel more at peace.
But there is no getting around it. I spend a lot of time doing boring things.
Or rather, I should spend a lot of time doing boring things. But these are often the things that get neglected as I give way to laziness. It’s never the fun things that get neglected.
I wonder if we are getting closer to the heart of the issue.
Why do I not want to do the boring things? Why do I consider them not worthy of my time?
I grew up among a generation of women being told we could do anything we set our minds to. Told to “dream big” and go far.
The “Christian” version of this goes something like “God has placed a big dream inside everyone’s heart. In order to truly be fulfilled (and fulfill God’s purpose for you on earth) you need to pursue that dream.”
I’m sure that some women will go on to lead an extraordinary life, change the world and make a difference in the lives of many people. But I don’t think every woman can or should lead this kind of “big” life.
Romans 9:20-21 says:
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
Am I okay with being the pottery made for “common use”?
There is a quote that floats around on internet memes and facebook pages: “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.
This quote is usually applauded and chuckled over. Because the subtext is clear: Everyone wants to make history. Everyone wants to be noticed.
But you don’t make history by being “well-behaved”. You don’t make history by faithfully serving God as someone who is “common”. You don’t make history by doing the boring things.
Perhaps instead of longing for excitement and fame, I should be content to do the work set before me, faithfully and quietly.
Because after all, Jesus has already and definitively changed history, and I can’t compete with that.