She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, then he must be extra frustrated with our Jewel! When faced with a few unscheduled minutes, it seems like she finds something insanely productive to do every time. But let’s back up.
What in the world is a distaff? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I was wondering, too. It’s used in spinning. Let’s let Dr. Wikipedia expound:
It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. It is most commonly used to hold flax, and sometimes wool, but can be used for any type of fiber. Fiber is wrapped around the distaff, and tied in place with a piece of ribbon or string. The word comes from dis in Low German, meaning a bunch of flax, connected with staff.
(So if you look at the picture, what she’s holding under her left arm is the distaff, and the spindle is in her right hand.)
And here we go again with the wool and flax! This is an extension of verse 13, where we found out that she works with these materials delightedly. So now here she is, after dark (see verse 18) spinning away to make thread that she can use to make cloth, which she can finally transform into usable goods. Now that’s an undertaking that is NOT speedy, yet she works diligently and delightedly.
I never do that. Make my own thread, cloth, and then clothes, that is. Do you? I used to admire people who were skilled and talented enough to make their own clothes from a bolt of cloth, but no more! Until I see you with a distaff and spindle, forgetaboutit! I guess we’re all chumps.
We must remember the historical and cultural context of verses like these (click on the image above for some insight along that vein). Must we have a spindle and distaff? Of course not. Instead, look at the heart of the issue: Jewel displays industriousness in place of idleness. How does that look in our modern, western lives?
Okay, here’s my brainstorm. Turn off the TV. Close your laptop. Let your phone charge on silent in the other room. DO something useful! Only you and God can determine what that something is, what you could and should be doing that would be in some way profitable. The answer for Jewel, because of her context, is probably different than the answer for us, but the idea is the same. How can you be useful? Helpful? This doesn’t mean you have to totally spend all your energies on others and neglect yourself — we’ll discuss that in a later verse — but it does mean that you should be looking for ways to serve others more than you look for ways to serve yourself. TV probably serves yourself. The computer, your phone, getting your nails and hair done, likely mostly serving yourself. I’m not saying to never do these things; I’m saying to evaluate activities like this, to evaluate their frequency in your life and whether that time could or should be spent differently.
Industriousness over idleness. This is a daily fight for me, but it’s a fight worth having. I don’t think I’ll ever look back and say, “I sure wish I’d spent more time on Facebook.” I may, however, regret never trying my hand at spinning.
♥ ♥ ♥
My Son, find a woman whose heart is bent toward service, toward being helpful, toward being useful. And then return the favor.
My Love, please don’t use my new phrase, “industriousness over idleness,” when you catch me — in your opinion — being idle. Please. It will make me be more idle, and then we’ll have rebellion on top of idleness to contend with. HA! 😉 But seriously, this is a battle for me. I’m still learning every day to delight in my work, and mostly I do. I’m a work in progress!
My Lord, sometimes it’s enough to remind myself that what I’m doing is helpful and useful to my guys. That they need me. That my work makes a difference. And then sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes I just plain don’t feel like folding a shirt or puréeing a carrot or sweeping a floor. In those moments, Lord, I ask for help. I ask for reminders that while what I’m doing is helpful and useful and needed and difference-making to my guys, that even more, it’s a service to You. Now that is a high calling.
♥ ♥ ♥