I wrote what follows for the women’s event, Conversations (mentioned in my last post). As the days have progressed I’ve marinated in these two realities and wondered – even more than when I wrote them – how they might be true for me.
In the first chapter of Proverbs, a series of verses appear that speak about wisdom – wisdom described as feminine.
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks…Proverbs 1:20-21
What if “wisdom” at the city gates is not just the use of the feminine pronoun, a descriptive metaphor, but really me?
As a woman in leadership, this image feels more than familiar. I often feel on the outside. I’m near the city and can even see what’s inside, but I’m not ever let completely in. I often speak, raise my voice, and yes, even cry out; but am not heard.
And I know that I am wise – not in metaphor, but in reality. From my on-the-edges viewpoint I see different things than those inside. From where I sit, and sometimes stand, I hear different things than those inside. From where I live, work, and love I experience different things (personally, institutionally, relationally) than those inside. These sights, sounds, and experiences gift me with wisdom.
It’s a painful reality: growth and beauty coming from misunderstanding, exclusion, and pain. Will I continue to cry out? Will I continue to speak, hear, and act in (and as) wisdom? Will I continue to raise my voice in ways that call others to see beyond their walls, their perspectives, their normative realities, their privilege and power?
These verses are more than a metaphorical use of the feminine pronoun for me. I know this woman. I am this woman.
In the last chapter of Proverbs, a series of verses appear that have been understood as a prescriptive text for the perfect woman/wife. She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
What if this woman is not just the perfect wife, but a metaphor for God’s hope on my behalf; imagery of how God invites me to live?
In these words I simultaneously see a glorious woman and a captivating little girl. The woman stands tall. She walks with condence. She is unafraid. She has seen much, heard much, experienced much and survived. She does not compromise herself and she can be gentle, graceful, and kind because she has known much pain and harm.
The young girl holds her hand over her mouth as she suppresses peals of giggling. She has been given a secret to hold and it’s all she can do to keep it to herself. She runs and leaps and dances through her days because she is filled with the joy of what this secret means – for herself and for others. She is unafraid. She is spontaneous, playful, and even mischievous. She knows no pain or harm.
These two, combined, speak to me of what I most desire for myself. All that has gone before and all that is yet to come enables me to be clothed in strength and honor. And what I know and hold deeply in my heart of God’s love and care for me and others is what enables me to laugh, even if only to myself.
Will I stand tall? Will I wear the strength and dignity that are uniquely mine because of the pain and harm I have known? Will I laugh because of the God who shares a secret with me that no one and nothing can destroy? These verses are more than just a description of the perfect wife. I know this woman. I am this woman.
These women – metaphorical and real – are who I want to be: wise, listening to and living with those on the margins, gaining strength through perseverance and struggle, dignied and fearless, forever laughing with the abandon of a child. God knows and loves this woman. I am becoming this woman.