by Gina L.
from Virtuous Daughters, January 2017~Volume 16, Number 10
"Panning for Gold" Proverbs 31 Study Series Part 10
Last year there was to be a new spring musical performed in our area called Letters From Luke which retold the stories from the Gospel of Luke (and a few stories form the book of Acts). Since our family had participated in the Christmas musical, we were asked to audition. Deciding we would be too busy to make the commitment, we declined and went about our busy winter schedule. Soon however, we received an email saying there was an emergency in the cast as a key male actor dropped out and the play was in jeopardy. Always willing to help anyone in need, my son Anthony said he would make the commitment so the musical could continue. We phoned the director, who was overjoyed, and she asked how many of us could be in the play because they were still several people short.
Knowing we would have to be taking Anthony all the way there (45 minutes away) for Sunday practices after church which last about 5 hours, we decided that it would make sense if more of us joined, even though we were busy. I had to drive anyway, so I decided I would join, but I struggled before going to the first practice, thinking that if I knew I was going to be in this play, I would have rather gone to the audition and then had a chance at getting a fun character to play or a more substantial role. I knew I would be a background actor and I didn’t necessarily mind that, but as I knew it was such a time commitment and I was so busy already, I struggled, thinking I would be sitting for hours there and doing such a small part. As I felt this poor attitude well up in me, I quickly saw that it was something I didn’t want to allow to take root, so I countered it with the thought, “Nothing is too small for me!” I actually had to tell this to myself many times before I even went to the first practice to prepare myself mentally to be thankful and remember that God uses people in all roles and it didn’t matter if I had to sit for hours waiting.
After I went to the first practice and got my role as a member of the crowd that was following the disciples around, I felt ok about it. But then we found out that the male character that Anthony volunteered to help take over was already filled, but they still said they really needed us to round out the cast. Well, it was tougher than it sounds for me to decide what to do as I reminded myself that the only reason we were doing this play was because they needed Anthony to play the apostle John, but now they didn’t need him for that. They still needed us, but just for members of the crowd….and it was such a long drive…and so much time…..and it seemed very unimportant. But I asked myself, why was this small part so different than being needed for a large part? Was I only willing to help if our role was substantial? I knew I was busy and that plagued me, but I also knew I was struggling with a thought that was contrary to God’s example. We joined. How could we not help?
As we went to our weekly practices, I repeated to myself many times before going, “Nothing is too small for me” until I finally seemed to embrace it and believe it. Ironically, about that time, the director gave me a few lines. The kids and I even ended up with little solos in a fun song about Jesus multiplying the bread and fish. In the end, it was an awesome experience that changed and grew us. (In a way, I see a parallel with the body of Christ where God sets each in the body as it pleases him and the foot can’t tell the hand it doesn’t need it. The members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary and the parts which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor.) And actually, the cast was very talented and we were honored really to have been any part of it. More importantly, I came away with a great lesson. Indeed, nothing is too small for me and nothing is too small or tedious for the Virtuous Woman either.
Proverbs 31:19 says that the Virtuous Woman layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. Hand spinning is one of the oldest arts whereby a woman would spin flax or wool or some natural fiber into yarn. Predating the spinning wheel, hand spinning was important since there was a large desire and need for fabric which was weaved from the yarn from hand spinning. A woman would hold the spindle which was usually a weighted wooden spike in one hand where the finished yarn would be wound upon and the distaff in another hand, or more often, tucked under her arm which held the loose fiber that was to be spun into yarn. (There is actually a movement today among hand spinners to bring back the use of the distaff since its use fell out of popularity with many modern hand spinners, who use only their hand to hold the loose fiber. I read several articles touting the benefits of hand spinning with a distaff, and now hand spinning with both the spindle and distaff is on the rise. It’s funny how the Bible has all along listed the best practice for hand spinning right in its pages about the Virtuous Woman.)
The hand spinner is able to vary the thickness of the yarn spun and also the consistency. Skillful spinners can make very fine gauge but strong and very consistent threads which weave into beautiful, top quality fabrics. I am sure the Virtuous Woman was a fine hand spinner. We see in Proverbs 31:24 that she makes fine linen and sells it and delivers girdles to the merchants. She also makes herself coverings of tapestry, which must be exquisite and of the utmost quality and produced from her own hand spun yarn.
Yes, the Virtuous Woman was a fine, successful artisan, but do you realize that hand spinning was tedious work and very time consuming? One source estimated that at even two to four times the probable hand spinning speed, it would take 45 hours to hand spin the yarn that was needed for only three yards of fabric. Then the yarn would still need to be woven together to make fabric, requiring much patience, especially as the Virtuous Woman produced many textiles. Here we see a woman who not only runs several successful businesses, but also makes decisions on the purchasing of land, and yet nothing is too small for her. She busies herself in a tedious, time-consuming work, not delegating it to servants, but her own hands are holding the spindle and the distaff. What an example we see in this woman! She is not seeking out the choicest jobs or the high, important sounding ministries. We saw that the Virtuous Woman is not afraid of physical labor as she planted her vineyard. Nor does she shy away from mental labor as she aptly considered the field and its worthiness. Now we see also that she is not too lofty for tedious labor which requires great patience. Indeed, nothing is above her, and yet nothing is below her. She doesn’t merely assign all unfavorable or tedious or menial jobs to her household, but rather she herself is fully engaged in the labors.
There is another important element I noticed when researching this hand spinning craft. There are two types of spindles, the stationary and the drop spindle. The drop spindle allows the spinner freedom to spin while going about with the chores of their day. Yes, the woman is able to spin anytime and anywhere, which makes all spare minutes profitable. I even saw a historical painting of a woman carrying her spindle and distaff while feeding her chickens (and we thought multi-tasking was a new concept)! We see the Virtuous Woman using her time wisely—every minute of it—and that is a great reminder to us. We can draw an application from her wise use of time and weave it with Scripture where we are reminded to redeem the time in Ephesians 5:16 because the days are evil. Colossians 4:5 also commands us to walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. One way I love to multi-task and use my time well is to listen to Scripture while I cook, or clean, or go about my day. I am spinning the words of Scripture in my mind—meditating on them—while my hands are working. We are told to pray without ceasing. What a picture of prayer the constant spinning of the spindle could be to us as we seek to be Virtuous Women today applying this truth, offering prayer and praise and thanksgiving for all God weaves into our lives as He knits a tapestry of grace in us.
We have seen the hands of this Virtuous Woman so busy at work throughout Proverbs 31. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” Are we indeed commanded to work with our own hands? It appears so, doesn’t it? There are many ways this can be accomplished every day by people of all ages and we are wise to embrace these opportunities and not consider them as beneath us in any way either. Is there anything too small or lowly for us? Jesus gives us an example in John 13 in the upper room with His disciples before He goes to the cross when He stoops down and washes the disciples’ feet. Why did He do that? He tells us, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Yes, He indeed did it to show an example. And He gives us a very wonderful promise in fact if we do follow this example that He left for us. He promises us something that people all over the world are searching for, but searching in the wrong place, I am afraid. For He tells us in verse 17 how to be happy. He speaks about following His example to serve and wash one another’s feet saying, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. “ There are many opportunities to work with our hands in each of our days. Some opportunities will be serving others and other opportunities may indeed be making something of beauty or of use.
Seize the daily opportunities God brings to work with your hands in whatever calling He has placed you, remembering nothing is too small, for such does the Virtuous Woman.
The Article Library
This "Library" contains articles that were published in previous issues of Virtuous Daughters. It will keep growing as we continue to upload articles from the 20 years of printing. We pray they are an encouragement to you!