Thursday, June 17, 2010

Proverbs 31 Reflections: Verse 15

"Woman Baking Bread" by Jean Francois Millet

"She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls."

In my neck of the woods, dawn is highly dependant on the time of year. For example, these days the sun peeks over the horizon around 5 AM. In the short December days, however, it doesn't come up until as late as 8:00. The Book of Proverbs was not written by a Seattlite, though, so I decided to check out what the hours of daylight look like in the Holy Land. It seems that in Israel, the sunrise usually occurs sometime between 6 AM and 6:30 AM all the year round.

If we go by the sunrise in Israel, then we can assume that the Proverbs 31 Woman was getting up sometime before 6:00 on a daily basis, probably closer to 4:30 or 5:00, as she would have to be sure that hot bread was coming out of the oven around dawn when the men would eat before heading out to work the land.

In this day and age, it can be tempting to say, "No way. I'm just not an early riser. I'm a night owl. I work better at night."

Granted, in this technologically advanced age, we have access to nighttime as never before. Our rooms can be flooded with light and we are able to stare at any number of screens at any hour of the day we choose. Nightlife in cities and elsewhere beckons, and even within the walls of our own homes, duties and pleasures and interests and time wasters sing their siren song once the sun sets and the children are finally asleep. Who wouldn't want to be a night owl? I am convinced, however, that this is not how the Lord intended things to be.

Scripture connects the night with two things: sleep and sin (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). Do you think there aren't enough hours in the day? Read these words of Jesus. Yes, I know they are metaphorical, but the metaphor is still true and applicable.

Dawn, on the other hand, is a time for obedience (Genesis 19:15), action (Genesis 44:3), the beginning of work (Nehemiah 4:21), worship (Psalm 57:8, Psalm108:2), supplication (Psalm 119:147), deliverance (Daniel 6:19), learning (Jonah 4:7, John 8:2), and nourishment (Acts 27:33).

Dawn is a precious time, particularly for a wife and mother whose daylight hours are nearly all claimed by duties, responsibilities, and activities--not only her own, but also those of her household. Dawn is a precious time for these women, women like me, but I know as well as anyone that rising early can be hard. I need an inordinate amount of sleep--at least 7.5 hours, preferably 8, and in pregnancy as many as 12 every single day--in order to thrive. I know what a sacrifice it can be to look at the hour I need to wake in order to get up before my husband and children and start my day off with obedience, with action (usually a jog around my neighborhood in the pale dawn light), with work (making a hot breakfast for my family, perhaps starting a load of laundry), with worship, with prayer and supplication, with learning (reading Scripture or a devotional study), and with nourishment (both physical and spiritual, for both myself and my family). But that is what I am called to do, and let me tell you, the days on which I rise early are blessed days. 

Proverbs 31 is not a "command" chapter; the Proverbs 31 Woman is the "Ideal Wife," someone to emulate, not someone to obey. Not everyone can do things the way she does. There are those who have to work night shifts, who must stay awake with a sick child, or who suffer from insomnia. There are also times when forgoing sleep for the purpose of a vigil or prayer is appropriate and good; we see evidence of this in Scripture and in the lives of the saints. These exceptions, however, should not negate a healthy normative rule of "early to bed, early to rise."

You may be a night owl now. Would it surprise you to know that I was, too, at one time? Back in high school, when my classes didn't start until 8:30. Oddly enough, it was in college, when most of my peers were partying until dawn and sleeping until noon, that I reshaped my sleep schedule so that I could retrain myself to be an early bird. Sometimes, I would have to go to bed at 9 PM so that I could wake up early enough to run my daily mile, shower, eat breakfast, and do my morning devotional before my first class. This wasn't easy, considering I often had rehearsals right up until 9:00. I still made it work, and oh! I cannot tell you what blissful, joyful, productive, blessed days those were!

These days, my husband and especially my children have more of an impact on my bedtime than I do, and I don't always make it down in time to rise before dawn. Besides, getting up before dawn these days (before 5 AM) would be a little excessive. But, it is my goal to get up sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 each morning so that I can begin my day well, offering up what is to come to my Lord who has preserved me through the night.


  1. I make my bread in the bread machine, which takes three hours, so generally I do it in the afternoon or evening to be ready for the next day. Otherwise I'd be getting up really early! I do get up with my husband though so that his lunch is packed and ready to go to work in a timely fashion. I used to be able to sleep in...I can hardly stay asleep past 7 am any more even when I have the freedom to do so!

  2. Where has your angry (about modesty) post gone? I could only read a few lines in my feedreader, but I can't seem to find it anymore...

  3. I love how you researched the sunrise in Israel. I had never though of that. Really helps me not to feel bad about waking up at 5:45 every day. I always kind of wished to wake at 5:00, but my husband's schedule doesn't allow for going to bed so early.

    For bread, I have been using this recipe:

    After preparing a big batch of dough, every morning you take enough for a loaf out of the fridge, let it set for 40 minutes, and bake it. It has the BEST crunchy, chewy crust and it's moist inside. Like the best bakery artisan bread. Anyway, thought I'd share. I just discovered this recipe last week. :)

  4. Elizabeth - I don't know why your comment doesn't seem to be showing up... the angry post is under construction. Hoping to post soon, now that I've calmed down a bit ;-)

  5. There you go, Elizabeth -- ah, your comment is showing up now, too! The "angry post" is now reposted. I believe that was what we call "post in haste, repost at liesure."


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