Author's Note: I hope nobody thinks I am trying to imply a woman only finds value in being in a marital relationship because of the two quotes I've selected. I believe the principals I am trying to emphasize are useful regardless of whether or not you're married.
Today is International Women's Day. While this has different and various meanings across the globe, it is generally thought of as a day to celebrate and appreciate the woman.
Depending on your school of thought, this is done in different ways. My appreciation will focus around two simple ideas, two quotes from writings that I have personally found to be meaningful. I hope that whether female or male, you appreciate this short piece.
"My vineyard, which is mine, is before me." (Song of Solomon 8:12 KJV) "My vineyard belongs to me and is at my disposal." (Song of Solomon 8:12 ISV)
The first quote is from the Song of Solomon found in the Scriptures. The Song of Solomon is one of my favorite books in the Scriptures that I refuse to study in depth because it is too intense for me. May be when I'm engaged, I will start to sink my teeth into it, but for now, a cursory reading is good enough. However, this is one of those texts which in my readings has become very meaningful to me. The Shulamite woman here is responding to her lover who earlier claimed her as his vineyard. Now, in case you did not, vineyard is a poetic Hebraism alluding to the woman's sexuality, her sexual vigor and fruit. This quote though, I don't think is necessarily limited to sex though, because I believe human sexuality goes beyond what a man and a woman can do on a bed. I believe our sexuality includes all the relational desires, the affections, the desires for understanding and communication which makes people feel and know they are loved and held and in community. So, yes this poetic line is about a woman saying her body's sexual pleasures are hers and hers to give, but I believe the principle can also refer more generally, to the woman's female identity, to what makes her woman. The Shulamite knows she is her own and she can choose how to give her womanhood and to whom to give it to.
The women in my life who have inspired and blessed me have been those whom I saw were in command of themselves. They, like this Shulamite woman, assert themselves in the midst of less than favorable societal values and expectations and proclaim that they are their own. These women choose who and what to give themselves to and not even Solomon with his 10,000 shekels could shake them.
"Do not sell yourself at a cheap market." (Letters to Young Lovers 76.2)
I love this quote and it ties in perfectly to the previous one. In a letter to a young woman who had been too loose with her affections and interests, Sister White said that she grieved for her soul and admonished her with this remark. Do not sell yourself at a cheap market.
You are your own and you are free to give yourself as you wish. To give your womanhood to whichever career, person, dream, goal, philosophy, religion, etc. that you so desire.
However, before you give yourself, ask if this isn't giving yourself over cheaply. What will that career return to you? What about a certain individual? Or job? What will you reap from that religion or the pursuit of this dream? Will it be worth you? Because you can be certain that life is demanding and once we give ourselves over to something it will begin to consume us.
The women who have inspired me and blessed me not only knew they were their own to give, but gave themselves over to things worthy of them. They wouldn't put up with abusive partners. Their goals and dreams they pursue are honorable and dignified. Moreover, the ones who are Christian doubly realize they have been bought by the precious blood of Christ and would never think to conduct themselves in a way that doesn't bear witness of that fact.
These women not only choose who and what to give themselves to, but they have a filter and a strong sense of worth ingrained in them. They're worth is tied to the blood of Jesus which does not rust nor corrupt nor age, therefore they can have certainty they are of value and be strengthened to make choices which are not below market.
Today, I celebrate these women.