Eshet Chayil! Who … Me?


“Valor. The word … feels a bit like being a six-year-old again and trying on my mom’s shoes.”

By Michele Henter | Twitter: @moviewife

“You are a woman of valor!” These words were spoken to me not too long ago and I had to almost physically restrain myself not to look behind me. Me? At the best of times I feel more like a small brown field mouse. Timid. Shy. (Don’t laugh too loudly at that.) Definitely not the person one would normally think of in terms of valor.

We were both attending a wedding and got to chatting at bit, as you do to pass the time. As a small group of women standing around, we shared small pieces of our stories–kids and their ages, married, that sort of thing. I ended up sharing a bit about having my 18-year-old niece living with us and some of the difficult circumstances around that.

That’s when she told me earnestly: “You are a Woman of Valor!”

Say what?

When we made the decision to have my niece live with us, most responses sounded like: What are you thinking and how can you afford to do that? We just shrugged it off and said our decision was made; and that was that. Did we consider it valorous conduct? Not at all.

Valorous people are brave, bigger than life, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Not me, a girl who, growing up, had self-esteem issues, who ran from arguments and just sat in class and studiously took notes. That girl grew up into someone who would wait for people to approach her for conversation, never initiating for fear of rejection or not having anything to say. That girl still avoids confrontation, if at all possible. So, to be called a woman of valor stunned me.

In that moment I stared at her, the phrase not computing with how I see myself. I wasn’t comfortable with that label. It didn’t seem to fit, so I dismissed it. My new friend then grabbed my arm and said, “No really, you are.”

What do you say in the face of such earnestness? I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent. The words, though, were not so easily dismissed. They stuck like a burr, irritating and drawing my attention to them time and again.

I thought of the kinds of people the words “valor” or “brave” brought to my mind. Heroes and warriors. People who stepped into a moment to do what was perhaps not easy, but who did what was right. People like the biblical characters of Ruth, Gideon, and Esther, and the lady who stopped at the scene of my cousin’s car accident and ran into the lake to try and pull her out. Those are the types of people I think of when I hear those words. Not a middle class aunty who needed to know that her niece had a safe place to stay.

I let those words roll around in my head. They wouldn’t let go. I looked them up on the Internet, in the dictionary, and let them percolate.

Valor. Intrepid. Brave.

How could someone I barely knew see these things in me based on a short conversation?

Then I remembered the Jewish saying, “Eshet Chayil.” Woman of Valor. I found it being said on several blogs and had to investigate it. Where did it come from? Where had I heard it? Turns out, I first heard the phrase from none other than Rachel Held Evans. It comes from Proverbs 31 and this is what Ms Evans has to say:

“The ancient acrostic poem celebrating the virtuous woman was never meant to be a standard women struggle to meet, but rather a blessing that celebrates the accomplishments they’ve already made. As we heard from my friend Ahava, in Jewish culture, many men recite the poem to their wives at the Sabbath meal, and Jewish women often praise one another for accomplishments in homemaking, career, boldness, and justice by declaring ‘eshet chayil!’—woman of valor!”

So, I looked at that: homemaking (okay, I kinda fail here), career (I do have one of those), boldness (field mouse remember?), and in areas of justice (does going all Mama Bear for my kids count?) I think the essence was, perhaps, for encouragement–like the honking of geese flying in formation.

I wonder if that is what she meant: a word of encouragement. A phrase, perhaps, to speak strength into what could be a difficult situation.

What I know right here and right now, is that I don’t feel particularly valorous. I’m just a girl who wanted to do the right thing, even though our decision wasn’t necessarily supported by everyone and was not going to be easy. We simply wanted to provide a home, structure, safe boundaries and most of all love, to a young girl who wants to stretch her wings, fly and pursue her dreams.

Valor. The word still causes me to want to rise up and shrink at the same time. It feels a bit like being six years old again and trying on my mom’s shoes. Gorgeous to look at, but feeling way too big for my little feet and a challenge to walk in.

I was reminded that God calls us as He sees us, not as we see ourselves. He sees us–our true selves–and calls us out, like Gideons out of the winepress, to step into His plans, into faith, into becoming more than we can envision.

So, my friends, shall we do what’s in front of us to do today? Shall we become Women of Valor? Intrepid Women? Brave Women? Women who will take care of whatever God places in front of us, regardless of whether it feels big or just a part of our everyday lives.

Let’s call out the valor in each other, just like my new friend had done for me. Eshet Chayil!


About Michele: 

I am a fervent child of God, an unswerving wife, & an unshakable mother (think Mama Bear with an east Vancouver attitude) to my 4 teens – 3 my own and 1 grandfathered in. I have learned to submit to the unusual way my brain processes everyday occurrences, and have learned to see the blessing in it, laugh about it, and in the past year have started to blog about it. I believe Starbucks was God’s gift to me, and I never pass up the opportunity to enjoy a true belly laugh. I blog at

Michele’s profile photo: Tina Francis

Image credit: Flower, by D. Sharon Pruitt