Before meeting my husband, and well before accepting my ADHD diagnosis, I would use proverbs 31:10-31 as a guide to what I believed The Lord expected me to aspire to as a woman; and eventually as a wife and mom. I would read it during moments of doubt, or after dates with men that I thought were marriage material. I’d even read through it after encounters with the men who were not.
I felt that if I stuck to the principles and beliefs laid out so poetically in those verses, I would meet and marry the man God designed to be my life partner! Even after I married my husband, I believed that if I stuck to the guidelines, God would be pleased.
Once I got the chance to become someone’s wife, and eventually someone’s mama, my understanding of these verses would cause me so much shame and doubt about who I was and how I was performing in my role as the “virtuous woman.”
For one thing, I quickly realized that living up to the expectations of those verses seemed next to impossible! Of course I wasn’t taking the New King James Version of this scripture literally. But the fundamental ideas of what a woman should do and how she should conduct and present herself seemed apparent and universal; and I didn’t feel like could personified those characteristics. The picture that I had created in my head of The Virtuous Woman described, was made up of so many things that I discovered I was no good at!
- She kept up her house in pristine condition,
- her task list was set at the crack of dawn and completed by the end of the day.
- She balanced a checkbook and dabbled in real estate without needing the help of her husband.
- She kept her hair done nails done made sure she and the kids were walking around town in the freshest clothes.
- She was on several boards, attended all their meetings, and was probably on time.
- She didn’t have time to sit around and catch up on the latest love & Hip Hop or Housewiv
es of ATL episodes.
- She was on top of her game. Her man knew it, her kids knew it, and the community knew it too!
- And the icing on the cake: she did all of this and was STILL able to meet all of her husbands “needs.”
This lady was Flawless!
I worked HARD to emulate this picture; but no matter what I tried, I’d always miss the mark. Even after coming to terms with my diagnosis of ADHD, the picture of that virtuous woman caused me to feel even more inadequate than before because now I KNEW I would never be that woman.
Even after sacrificing so much day-to-day happiness and energy to keep up the appearance of the virtuous woman, I would still come up short:
- I hate shopping of any kind.
- I clean up nice, but most days my uniform consists of a great pair of leggings and a (hopefully) clean t-shirt!
- My kids stay clean but when it comes time for laundry to be done, the kids look extra nice because I have to pull out the church-clothes… I avoid laundry at all costs.
- I could probably buy a house with the amount of late fees I have paid over the years and,
- no matter how hard I’ve tried, I still need at least 3 different types of lists and reminders of what bills need to be addressed each month.
- My house is…well let’s just say that I started a cleaning and organizing service based on my feelings of overwhelm that arise every time I have to locate anything.
- My phone is still somewhere in here buried amongst some random pile of papers, books, or clothes that need to be put away!
- meeting my husbands “needs” after a day of keeping up appearances would feel more like a chore than an act of marital consecration…
I was confused by God and His plans for my life. I asked many times why He’d allow me to make a vow that my mind wouldn’t allow me to commit to?! The more I tried to live up to that picture of the virtuous woman, the more exhausted and depressed I’d feel. All the other wives and mommies look like they had it together too, which was another slap in the face during those early days of getting to know myself as a woman with ADHD.
Although I had begun to accept the symptoms and shortcomings that came with ADHD, I still carried around the burden of not being able to measure up to that lady. I assumed that God loved me in spite of…everyone has their flaws. I sought comfort in that, and figured if I kept trying and praying I would one day make God and my family proud.
I was not comforted, and the assumption only made things worse for me. It affected my relationship with God in the worse way! Instead of seeking more time in the day to pray, I was searching for my inner Susie Home-Maker”. Instead of studying my bible and seeking a deeper meaning in Proverbs 31:10-31, I was too busy;
- wondering what people thought about my quirks,
- Asking myself things like “should I called back what’s-her-name and asked her to email me the details of that phone conversation? She told me where they were meeting for that play-date like 3 times, but I was trying so hard to remember her name!…”
- cleaning and organizing and searching and finding and losing things…
You Are a Virtuous Woman
At the start of the Lenten Season, I decided that I’d do more reading and studying of the bible. This week was the first time since my diagnosis that I actually read through Proverbs 31:10-31. I always felt that I had such a clear picture of this woman. But like many of us know about the bible, If you read with your heart, you can expect God to give you what you need at that time; and it’s usually different every time. When I moved myself out of my own way, and read with my heart, God was able to reach past the internal demons that told me I wasn’t good enough to call myself a woman of virtue. God was able to fill me with a deeper understanding of the verses. This time as I read the scriptures, I heard my inner voice say, “she DOES look like you!”
For the sake of going sparing you a long biblical history lesson, I’m going to assume that you and I know that this woman lived in a time where she had to work differently from a woman living in our society today. She didn’t have a Wal-Mart or a smart phone. I want to believe that if she had the option, she wouldn’t be bringing food from afar as described in verse 14. This woman did what she had to do to make sure her family got the best food that was available. She made sure that her household and all that was in it was productive, that her husband and children were happy and healthy and that she used her gifts to add value to her community. The most important description of all:
Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 29,30 nkjv
In these verses, God is telling us that we must stand out from the many, and be OUR personal best. You must do what it takes for YOU to excel. There is no comparison, because He made us all unique.
Before coming to terms with my ADHD, I wasn’t reaching my highest potential. I knew that I could do more, but for many reasons, I just wasn’t putting forth the effort it took to explore what my best really was. I have since made a commitment to excellence, but I no longer expect the details of that journey to look like what I read in those verses.
After reading the Proverb this week, I realized what I had been too busy to figure out. God doesn’t love me in spite of my ADHD. He Loves me. He made me this way. And If I believe that He doesn’t make mistakes, then there can’t be an “in spite of ” following that statement.
Instead of fighting to be like The Virtuous Woman, I have to do what I have to do so the Lord can say “well done” when it’s my turn to see His Face. If that means that I have to let those dishes sit a while so I can have a tea party with my daughter, or that I have to leave those envelopes in a pile in the middle of the kitchen table to remember to pay them, then that’s what I have to do. I have to work with what I’ve been given. Overcoming my challenges will take the same strength, fearlessness and faith, even if that journey looks a hott mess to the next woman.
I’m sure I will continue to have my moments of doubt, shame and frustration and I will have to work hard to see past my own negativity. Hopefully, I can be comforted by what I now understand to be embedded in the scriptures for each of us about The Virtuous Woman, and embrace His message.
I pray that my testimony infuses you with the power to be the woman God planned for you to be; whatever challenges you face!