The Balancing Act : Waiting as an Act of Faith

Today’s art is a wonderful Vermeer: “Woman Holding a Balance.” Ah, a symbol of the elusive quest for balance in life… a search not unique to this age! Art Historians argue about whether or not the woman depicted is meant to be pregnant, or if it is merely a style of dress that is reminiscent of those worn in maternity. It is enchanting that we are left to wonder, as it lends the painting an air of mystery.

In the case that she is pregnant (and I am one who does believe Vermeer meant to depict her as such,) I assert that her holding a balance becomes even more significant, particularly as she holds it near her womb. In those days, there was no way of finding out what the sex of the unborn baby was. There were old wives tales, to be sure, but no accurate way of knowing.

This balance near her womb, then, could symbolize the state of equal possibility: boy or girl. I imagine her lost in a reverie of wondering what the child would be. The faint smile on her lips, in that case, displays an intuition that she will have whatever is “meant to be,” whatever God wills.

These days, it is popular to find out the unborn baby’s sex months before it is born. I completely understand that impulse. But here is a recent article of mine published in Motherly on that subject. It shows how choosing NOT to find out your baby’s gender can be an act of faith.

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Mystery Jets - Waiting On A Miracle

Woman Holding a Balance - Johannes Vermeer
Woman Holding a Balance – Johannes Vermeer


Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

—John Burroughs