Interview with Jani van der Pol
Prov 31 is one of those chapters in the Bible that can awe and inspire us and at the same time intimidate and dismay us. I myself have a love/hate relationship with this passage!
With woman’s day coming up, I was on a quest for some perspective and I thought of someone who I think lives out the essence of this chapter. I talked to Jani van der Pol, a Pastor’s wife at the Assemblies of God church in Riversdal, to pen some of her thoughts on the matter.
Jani, tell us a bit about yourself.
“What’s to tell? I am Jani. I live in Riversdal. I am not a Pastor’s wife, but I am the wife of a Pastor. I find that as soon as someone hears you are a Pastor’s wife, they come with all kinds of expectations and preconceived ideas of what that means; like organizing women’s ministry, being in charge of hospitality or serving coffee and tea etc.
I am mostly at home, at the moment preparing for our baby’s arrival” she looks down at her 39 week and 5 day pregnant belly as she shifts her position on the blue exercise ball she is sitting on. “I like making things. I am always busy with some or other creative project.” She laughs and adds: “I really am a normal person. Nothing special or fancy.”
So Jani, what do you think about Prov 31?
“Well, in the beginning as you read it, it really can be overwhelming. It talks about a woman who does so many things. It sounds like very hard work. But, I think it’s not really about everything that she does, but the heart behind it. Her heart is to take care of and to nurture her family, to bring honour to her husband and to look out for the people in her community. I think Prov 31 is less work-orientated than we think and more to do with having a heart for people around you.”
Prov 31 has a lot to say about what the woman does with her hands. What do you consider your hobbies and gifts? And how do you think you apply them as a Prov 31 woman?
“Well, like the woman in the chapter, I do sew. A lot. I also like photography and every kind of art form. I love being creative and making beautiful things. I guess I use these gifts by looking for creative ways to benefit my family, like looking for cheaper ways of doing or making things and also teaching friends to do the same” I smile knowingly, because I have often heard Jani talk about a project of up-cycling something old into something new and beautiful. Just recently she has told me of reupholstering their couches and making her own cloth diapers for baby to come. All her talk of cloth diapers have inspired me to start looking into saving money for my family in that way as well. “I also think being creative helps me to look at things differently than others normally would.”
Well, Jani, the Prov 31 woman is said to get up while it is still dark. Tell us, what time do you get up?
She laughs “When my husband brings me coffee in bed!” She looks down at her belly and adds with a smile: “This will drastically change in the next few days.”
I think a lot of what the Prov 31 does has to do with stewardship. How do you think we can be good stewards as Prov 31 wives?
“My outlook on the role of a wife and mother can maybe be considered somewhat traditional. I have studied and I do have a degree. And I don’t have a problem with being a successful career-woman. But for me, I see my main role as honouring and supporting my husband so that he can accomplish all that God is calling him to. And to see that my family has everything they need. I also want godly kids, not protected from society, but living in the world as strong individuals making a difference.
The Prov 31 woman is definitely not lazy, but sometimes I wonder when she rests! What do you think the role of rest should be in our lives?
“Well, first of all it’s starts with your relationship with God. You can not start a day without first having found your rest in Him.
And then everyone needs a timeout once and again. Time with family. Life is all about the relationships you are in. You must be disciplined to make time to spend with your family. For my husband and I, we make an effort to go away for a weekend every 3 months, to take that time to spend with each other and rest.”
Well, one thing of Prov 31 you live out literally; sewing and making clothes for your family. I’m not sure that’s for all of us though 😉
“It comes down to creativity. And fulfilling needs. Making sure that your kids are clothed and have beds to sleep on. It’s about providing for your family what is needed. The woman in the chapter did it through sewing, but that just a coincidence. You can do it in a variety of other ways.”
The Prov 31 woman has a lot of amazing character qualities. Which characteristics do you think is the most important in a godly woman?
“Definitely courage. Life is not always easy. Sometimes you have to go against the stream, acting on your convictions.
And definitely wisdom. There are so many philosophies and opinions out there. You have to know how to guide your family in the midst of all that. Thankfully we know the Source of all Wisdom, so we don’t always need more knowledge. We just need to be open to the Holy Spirit to guide us and also to lean on the truth found in the Word of God.
But, yes, you are going to get resistance in life sometimes. So we also need to be a bit “thick-skinned”. People won’t always understand why you make the decisions you do.”
I think verse 30 is the key to this chapter: “A woman who fears the Lord should be praised” How do you see “fear of the Lord” ?
“At first when you hear that phrase you think: ooh scary! But you see, God is Almighty. When you read the Old Testament you see that He is worthy to be feared.
But there is also safety in the fear of the Lord. When you realise who God is; that He is Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent, you realise that He is so much bigger than anything that can come across your path. When you live and rest in Him, nothing can shake you or distract you from your path, because He is your safety and your refuge. You can only really comprehend God’s love when you understand fearing Him, because then you know who He is and what He can do.”
Thanks for your time Jani. Do you have any final words for the women out there striving to live up to the example of the Prov 31 woman?
“I think a woman should strive to be who and what God wants her to be and not desire to imitate someone else. If you have found your identity in God and know who you are, you would have no need to strive. Having your identity in God is knowing that you are accepted despite all your shortcomings.”
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
What have you learned from the Prov 31 woman? And how are you living it out practically? We would love to hear your comments below. Happy Woman’s Day!