We’ve heard about her, sewing late into the night by a lamp that does not go out, gorgeous toned arms planting a vineyard, a prominent husband, self-designed purple clothing, and children that get up in the morning and praise her. All of that sounds like an unattainable biblical ideal. Reflecting on who you know that might fit this description is an interesting exercise because if you are fortunate enough to know her, you must ask yourself, what is her secret?
The Proverbs 31 woman does exist and the version of her I’ve met lives in the Amazon basin. About ten years ago, a band of naive, midwestern church folk braved a missions trip in July on the Amazon river. We lived on a boat, helped build a church, ministered to children, slept in hammocks, and prayed we wouldn’t get sick. Our boat captain’s wife, Virginia, became our adopted mother. She rose in the dark to do her time with the Lord and begin preparing our food for breakfast. Working in a ship’s galley that was about three by four feet, she quietly went about smiling and chopping her way through the day. In her “free” time, she worked on the construction site, mixing cement and tamping down dirt with her bare feet to prepare the foundation of the church. At days end, after serving all of us a not-to-be-duplicated fish soup, she held her husband’s hand and laughed with him as we all played Train Dominoes. She didn’t play, just contentedly sat beside him delighting in the fun he was having. We would worship together, singing in Portuguese and English and she was filled with freedom and joy in her Savior, whether she knew the language or not. She had the capacity to love us like her own children without barely a spoken word. Being near her was like being with Jesus.
I’ve thought a lot about Virginia since those precious weeks on the Amazon and concluded that her transient home, her heart on a river boat is the perfect home for Jesus. Virginia is living in the light of John 14:23, “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” She has daily made her heart his dwelling place and thereby abides in and creates a home from that place. The home of her heart emanates the Father’s love. She has learned to keep him at the center despite everything around her constantly churning and changing: new boats, new missions teams, new river communities to minister in, new crews leading the boats. Yet, because she makes her heart God’s home each day, she is able to love us all as her own children. Although we don’t live in these circumstances, everything around us is constantly changing as well, just in a different context. Our jobs, our kids, our volunteering, our aging parents can lead us straight to exhaustion if we don’t make space in the inn of our hearts for him.
Who do you know that is a Proverbs 31 woman? Look into her life, spend time with her, write down some things about her and pray that the Lord will teach you to be that heart home for him. As we allow the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be our home at the start of each day, through the day and at the end of the day, we will become more like him.
His home in us enables us to effectively cultivate a home for so many others as well. Virginia was able to do that without even speaking our language and, of course, Virginia glided through each day wearing a purple shirt, which she washed in the river and hung out to dry each night. A shirt that never wore out.