I was talking with a friend recently and somehow the topic of the Proverbs 31 woman came up. “She is not afraid of the snow,” he said, “I always found that part funny.”
“Sweet,” I replied. “I’m not afraid of the snow either! At least I’ve got that part down.”
But can I be honest? As I left that conversation, I started to realize – I am afraid.
When I was in 8th grade, I won a “Fear Factor” knockoff competition that was held at a youth event in our town. Hundreds of kids from ages 11-18 were there. I think about 40 of us started the competition, but by the final round there were only three left. They filled a baptism with ice, then with water, and myself and 2 senior boys were the only ones left. We had to submerge ourselves in the ice water, and hold our breath for as long as we could. One of the boys was an extremely talented trumpet-player (like… he is a professional musician now. Not in the struggling musician kind of way, either.) so I knew his lung capacity was better than mine. The freezing water took my breath away even before I put my head under. But I made a decision that I was going to stay under that water until I passed out if I had to. I wasn’t afraid.
I stayed under for over a minute
And I won. My prize was $75 and bragging rights.
At the end of that school year, we had our annual end of the year band concert, and our band director, as was his custom, said something about each graduating 8th grader. It was his tradition to come up with one word that summed up that person.
My word was “Fearless.
And you know what? I was.
But not even a year later, we received a phone call that my sister was in a coma. Within 24 hours I was in a hospital room with our family and pastors, and we watched her die. Just like that. And our lives have never been the same.
That scares me more than I can say – that life, our most important thing we have, is so fragile that it could end or change forever in an instant.
In the NIV, it says “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (Proverbs 31:21)
I think what it’s talking about is that she is capable, she provides for her family, her husband provides for her family, and God provides for their family. She’s not afraid of the hard seasons because she is provided for and the people she loves are provided for. They’ll make it through. In fact, they’re not just clothed, they’re clothed in scarlet. They’re not just taken care of, they are provided for and blessed in unnecessary ways.
I can look back on the winters of my life – the times when the snow has fallen and covered everything that I knew, where my world became a blank canvas, the comfort of the familiar washed blank by the storm – and I can see that I have been clothed and provided for, and even blessed above and beyond that.
But even while that’s true, I know how incredibly dark, and cold, and scary those winter storms of life were to live through. And if I’m honest, while I trust God to clothe me and the people I love in scarlet when it snows, and while I trust it will be ok, I’m still afraid. I’m not afraid we won’t make it through. I’m afraid of the sheer pain, ache, and effort it takes to make it through. It scares me to know that I will inevitably live through more winter seasons of life.
So, I don’t have that one down. I am afraid of the snow. But I know that the snow will come, and we will be clothed in scarlet. And I will take a deep breath and walk through those winter seasons when they come, because I will have the hope that spring is coming.
I’ve realized recently that if there was a word to summarize who I am, I don’t know that I want it to be fearless. Because I have seen winter, I have seen darkness, I have known fear. That’s what’s real, what’s true about my life. But I will not be shackled by fear. I hope, instead of being fearless, that I will be Brave even when I am afraid.
Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories. Other places are
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