Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
April 6, 2017

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  

By Grace Custer

The clock is ticking. Minutes, days and weeks are passing! Whether rich or poor, young or old, every person is given the same number of minutes in every hour, and the same number of hours in every day. When my allotted time is used up, my life will be over, and so will yours.

Time and age go together. Has anyone else noticed these days, that policemen, doctors and other professionals are a lot younger than they used to be? Someone described old age as the time when your body gives your brain a list of things it’s not going to do anymore!  Reality is that today, I am the oldest I’ve ever been and also, the youngest I will ever be again! God’s Word describes life as a “vapor,” that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away! (James 4:14)  Whether we like it or not, there is a sense of urgency attached to time. Time spent is never to be retrieved. If we want our life to count, we need to live purposefully. “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, And only what’s done for Christ will last!” is a phrase worthy of meditation!

In our culture, we women are bombarded with so many “voices” giving us constant messages about how we should look, how we should act, how we should parent our children, or relate to our husbands!  And the list goes on and on! What exactly should we be doing in these areas, anyway? I find reading about the Proverbs 31 woman is a good way to keep myself in check and on track, amid all the noise of this modern world.

It seems that this Virtuous Woman was in every way, ideal. The key had to be because she kept her life in balance. As is the case with a lot of women, she was an accomplished “multi-tasker.” She took care of her children, her household, and her husband, as well as taking time to care for herself! She was resourceful and enterprising. She added value to those around her, whether financially, spiritually, or emotionally. Whatever she did, she did intentionally and to the best of her ability. It seems obvious that the Biblical account of this woman is a statement on  her entire life. After everything was said and done, her children arose up and called her blessed. In old age, she brought respect and honor to her husband as he sat at the city gate. What a remarkable woman! To receive those commendations meant she did not waste her time and certainly not her life. We can easily imagine she was constantly learning, applying and striving to do better, to reach higher.  She lived an intentional, purposeful life. What an example for us today!

This amazing Proverbs 31 woman must have been keenly aware of her own personality and character weaknesses. In order to be as productive as she was, she could not have been so foolish as to assume her imbalances would somehow magically take care of themselves! She must have taken daily steps to challenge and strengthen those areas. She knew what kind of home she wanted. To her, it mattered greatly what kind of example she set in front of her children. Though it wasn’t easy, she chose to do the hard things rather than give in to the laziness of her flesh. Intuitively, she understood that the “easy route” would only guarantee her an unfulfilled, frustrated life! (I am sure there were women whom she knew, who were unmotivated and unhappy!)  When truth was revealed to her, she acted upon it. She knew that failing to act immediately, usually meant certain things would never get done!

She was determined to obtain the best life she could possibly have! From the beginning until the end, she accepted the fact that she would always have areas of weakness that needed improvement.  She was determined. She was not a quitter. She wanted more in life than a lot of other women did, and she knew that would never happen, if she were not willing to work hard. With God’s help, she chose to face her fears and realities, apply herself, and deal with her issues. She understood that putting off until tomorrow what she needed to do today, never made any situation better. Despite how her flesh tried to influence her, she undoubtedly worked very hard to keep her heart void of pride and defensiveness. To her dying day, this Virtuous Woman made herself a student, humbly gleaning and learning from anyone, anywhere!

I am sure she hated the thought of becoming “hung up,” even though she inevitably experienced trials and difficulties just like everyone else. She knew the only way to avoid being “hung up” was to humbly admit her own faults and failures, truly accept God’s forgiveness, forgive herself and others, and let go and move on, using her trials or mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow!

This godly woman knew that to have a successful life, she needed to guard her thoughts. Wise to the deceitfulness of her own heart, she saw her feelings as potential “traps” that could easily derail good intentions, hindering her from achieving the life she desired. She was well aware that even though her mind was very active, not every thought or conclusion she imagined was accurate, or spiritually based. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God” was probably an exercise she engaged in often. (See 2 Cor. 10:5) The desire for a balanced life, blessed with godly fruit, was her dream and lifelong pursuit. She believed she was created with the sole purpose of bringing glory to the Lord and honoring Him with her life. It was through this prism of Truth that she constantly filtered her choices, ambitions and daily endeavors.

I have often wished that the Bible would have told us the name of this amazing lady we read about in Proverbs 31. Have you ever wondered if this ideal woman who possessed all of these wonderful qualities, ever really existed? Was she a real person, or was this account like a parable or an illustration? The Bible doesn’t make the distinction, and evidently it’s not important for us to know. What does matter is that this woman, so vividly described in Proverbs 31, is in the Bible for my edification and instruction. I can learn a lot from her life and character. The timeless life description of the Virtuous Woman has served as a compass, an example of godliness, to women of all ages over the years and throughout the centuries.

What should I learn from her example, and how can I apply it to my life TODAY? As I read through the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, I should examine my heart and ask myself some questions: Like this amazing woman, do I live my life with a sense of purpose and destiny? Do I view each day as a gift and an opportunity to make a difference in lives? Do I make choices with spiritual goals in mind? Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve been too busy and preoccupied in my own little world. As a result, I’ve failed to take opportunities to bless other people! Shame on me for this! What joy I have missed by being caught up in self-focus! Whether in your family, church family or in the community, serving, giving, and helping others is truly the path to a fulfilling life!

There are people all around us who are silently crying out for someone to care. Although they hide it and mask their pain with chemicals or entertainment, if you spend a little time, dare to stop and take a closer look, you will see it. Randomly, I met a teenager like this recently. He was working behind the counter in a gas station, and I struck up a conversation with him. I found out rather quickly that his parents were hardly involved in his life. Perhaps he looked to me as a parent figure? Whatever the case may be, he was lonely, he was hurting, and he was very happy to read the tract I left with him. When I told him I would pray for him and wouldn’t “forget about him,” he was visibly moved! His eyes glistened when he told me, “Most people do forget about me.” There are people all around us like this young man. If I won’t live intentionally, and if I refuse to get outside my comfort zone, I might never find them. I may even miss God’s purpose in my life.

Mothers with children at your knees or around your table, are you being diligent to consistently instill character and godly principles into your dear ones? Do you set a disciplined example in your attitudes, interactions with people, and your response to authorities in your life? Do you exemplify joy in serving others, whether inside or outside your home? Ask the Lord to reveal areas where you need to improve. Realize that your opportunity to build young lives won’t last forever! I’ve met some moms who don’t know what they don’t know! Furthermore, they are also very confident in their ignorance! This is sad, and parents like this are destined to learn their parenting lessons the hard way. You can gain a lot from books, but don’t discount the practical advice and input from a godly mentor, or the wise counsel from the pastor God has placed over you! No matter what her age, a wise person will be continually cultivating a teachable spirit.

Have you noticed that there is not a hint of self-pity evident in the life of our amazing role model, the Virtuous Woman? We women can get so “hung up” on our problems, that we miss out on the joy of living life! Be careful about the messages you tell yourself. Your opinions, fueled by emotion or fear, can rob you of the life you desire! Single ladies can “pine away” wishing for “Mr. Right.”  Meanwhile, they are oblivious to the blessings that exist right under their noses: nearly endless opportunities to develop, learn, grow, serve, and impact lives! Older women can become negative and sour when all they do is look back over their lives and complain about their lost potential.  This will typically turn into blaming others.  We all would do well to stop looking at what we think we don’t have, and start being truly thankful for what we DO have!

What about you? Is there an area in your life in which God has been convicting you to make some changes? Do you have an unforgiving spirit toward a loved one who has hurt you? Do you harbor bitter feelings because of some abuse you have suffered? Are you angry toward yourself over something you’ve done, or something you feel incapable of doing?  Perhaps you are unwilling to admit your lost condition. It may be settling the salvation question, or being willing to speak up and witness, or conquer laziness or a bad temper; lose weight and become healthier, or forgive yourself or others, or believe God really loves you.  No matter what the issue is, we are all powerless to change ourselves.  The Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope for real change! It is not that we don’t know what to do, but rather that we don’t do what we know!

I believe one of the greatest qualities of the Virtuous Woman is balance.  You cannot have a balanced life, if you refuse to deal with your issues. Perhaps there is a room in your heart, with a door that you have slammed tight. Maybe you refuse to let anyone inside, including your Heavenly Father! You know what I’m talking about, and if you let yourself think about this very long, your eyes may even well up with tears! The thought of opening that door is very painful. I get that. But consider this thought: unfinished business like this will fester and defile your whole life! It’s a HUGE red flag, when we refuse to face something.  We won’t allow God to root out the problem!

Doing the “hard thing” in life is, well…really hard! It is also worth it! We should want to truly live our lives, not just merely exist. Think about this: we all make a choice to either live with the pain of discipline or the pain of regret! When we allow ourselves to accumulate issues and baggage, we are actually lowering the quality of our lives, piece by piece.

Nothing will ever change for you if you refuse to take that first step. Of course, you will stumble; you may even fall. But at least you will have a chance, if you will just take the first step! If you are God’s child, you are not alone! He is holding your right hand saying “Fear not. I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)

It’s time. The clock is ticking. Minutes, days, and weeks are passing! What are you waiting for? It will never be easier than it is today, because tomorrow is the one thing that never comes!  “Behold today is the day of salvation…” (2 Corinthians 6:2)