Proverbs 31:25 outlines some admirable qualities: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” As a psychologist and eating-disorders specialist, I encounter many people who experience passivity rather than strength, shame rather than dignity, and intense anxiety rather than carefree laughter. A woman comes to believe she is undeserving of food and cannot see her value, and she struggles to voice her needs and preferences. A young man feels shame about his sexual experiences and tearfully shares his feelings with his therapist while trying to overcome binge eating and compulsive exercise behaviors. A teenager battles bulimia as she finds herself caught in the tension of striving to meet her needs while feeling she must compensate for having any needs to begin with.

God’s wisdom calls us to heal from our experiences of suffering, though the path may be rocky. We may need to visit vulnerable, painfully honest places within ourselves in order to experience strength, dignity, and carefree joy. When a person or system preaches the gospel of passivity, we can respond in strength, asserting our voices. When a person or system preaches the gospel of shame, we can rise in dignity, shamelessly claiming our uniqueness and identity. When a person or system preaches the gospel of anxiety and fear, we can embrace the love of God with a carefree laughter that does not minimize our pain but releases us from rigidity born of fear. Asserting our voices, claiming our full identity, and embracing a carefree spirit are easier said than done. But as we move toward wisdom and healing, we become more confident in our ability to embody empowerment, uniqueness, and spontaneity. Complex and chaotic as our next obstacles may appear, God can supply strength, dignity, and laughter—exactly when and for as long as we need it.

God, supply me today with the strength, dignity, and carefree laughter I need in order to face what is happening and what is yet to come. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 9:30-37

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Lectionary Week
September 13–19, 2021
Scripture Overview

Proverbs describes the noble wife and sets a standard that can seem impossible. This woman is capable and respected but also generous and wise. She serves but is not weak. Is she a “superwoman,” and do all women need to be “superwomen”? No, she is noble because she follows the counsel of the psalmist and is deeply rooted in the teachings of God. Therefore, she represents a standard for everyone to emulate, not just women. James, another teacher of wisdom, encourages believers to show these same characteristics by following the wisdom given by God. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples display a lack of wisdom by arguing over who is the greatest. Jesus reminds them that greatness in God’s eyes comes through service, not through seeking recognition.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Proverbs 31:10-31. How have societal expectations shaped your life? How do you allow them to shape the ways you interact with others?
Read Psalm 1. What fruit are you yielding in this season?
Read James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a. In what ways does your life reflect “gentleness born of wisdom”? How are you gentle with yourself and with others?
Read Mark 9:30-37. How do you seek to serve others in your daily life?

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