Oh to be a Proverbs 31 woman. It’s the description that brings respect and doubt to every woman who proclaims to be a Christian. The person that every woman wants to be but knows full well that she’ll never hold a candle to. In light of that scripture, women (including myself) try to be something that they’re not, something they think they ought to be. That person usually ends up being un-authentic. I try to be bold, hard working, joyful, pleasing, talented, caring, profitable, kind, fearless, beautiful and charming. Instead I find myself hidden, showing my true self to a select few that I believe will not betray my authenticity.
A few weeks ago, I happened to have a similar conversation among different friends at different times. Each of those conversations remarking at the pressure of being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, church leader, working woman … and about how each of them felt that they couldn’t show their true self in front of others. That they would be seen as weak or looked down upon because of it. Strange, isn’t it, how we are able to hold others accountable to a scripture that we’re afraid to stand next to ourselves?
What if we attempted to live by the actual scripture and not our interpretation of it? Nowhere in Proverbs 31 (or the entire Bible) does is it say that you must be perfect, that you can’t struggle, that you can’t have a “sweatpants and slippers day”, or you don’t get to question what is happening in your life. Women today struggle with depression and alienation because they’re so afraid to allow themselves to go through what they’re going through.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
It doesn’t mean you should act like your marriage is flawless, only that you don’t heap coals over your husband’s good name – that you lift him up daily. If you’ll divulge me for a moment to tell a personal story …
My Pastor growing up was a good man. He could flat preach! And even more than that, he was a good husband and father. My whole life I looked up to him and his wife as role models of what a functional Christian relationship should be. In my 20’s that view was shattered, as I heard him say from the pulpit that when they were newly married they had a pretty big fight. He yelled at his wife and pulled over to the side of the road and started walking because he was so mad. He told the story and began to chuckle as he remembered that she sat in the truck and laughed, commenting on how he might be over-reacting. (Sorry Pastors if I’m not quite telling it right) I know this sounds insane but it was at that moment, their relationship seemed possible. I found out that relationships can have flaws that can be worked through and laughed about. Not once have I heard either of them say a negative word against the other, but time and time again, I have seen them humbly point out their own short comings.
I think that as women we feel the need to protect how others view our relationship instead of allowing the story of how God worked through it to teach a different generation.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night
Yeah, this woman knows how to work! So basically what we’re reading here is that a woman had better work sun up to sun down. In a time of working mother’s, we assume this scripture means that you should: Wake up, get the kids ready for school & husband ready for work, make breakfast & lunch, work your 9 hour shift (and kick butt doing it because you can’t be distracted by your home life), go home, get the kids to sports, cook dinner, clean the house and then you can go to bed… and don’t forget those wifely duties!
I’m sorry but I don’t think that is what Solomon was talking about here. I think that he was referring to her being efficient and diligent. There’s a difference between running yourself to the ground versus sticking to your commitments and being a dependable person. I think that when you have a family, you work together to get your commitments done and you do it to the best of your ability. Maybe that’s not what Solomon meant, I mean he was all into concubines and whatnot … but looking in context, I don’t believe that the same God who told him to speak of women as “worth far more than rubies” would also expect men to have women do all of the work by themselves. It’s ok to ask for help on occassion.
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.
Here’s the tough one. To be strong and dignified in the midst of life. To be wise when nothing makes sense. Does this really mean that we can’t be sad when our hearts are breaking? Does this mean that we can’t question God when it feels like our world is falling apart? That we can’t struggle through a bad day without it seeming that we’ve abandoned all hope in God?
I’ll ask you again to bare with me as I share a story of a woman who showed what I believe God is speaking to in Proverbs 31:25-26. A very dear friend of mine, lost a baby in a horrific way. I don’t know that my heart has ever broken so hard for another person in my life. Not once did she pretend that she wasn’t hurting, or she didn’t question what had happened. But she SPOKE faith into existence, she SPOKE strength and wisdom until it was fulfilled in her life. She had moments where she allowed herself to break in the midst of a chosen few. Which I believe to also be wisdom, because in Proverbs 15:22 it says to seek Godly council. And even in those moments, she chose to allow others to speak into her, which also took wisdom and strength. She challenged me in that experience on what I would have done in the same situation. I wouldn’t have held a candle to who she was in that moment, the way she allowed Christ to show through her.
When we are waiting on our miracles, we speak those into existence. We need to stop acting like we are strong and dignified and wise. We need to start saying that God will give us strength and wisdom, until the moment that God brings that on us.
Bottom line, I’m deciding to define this scripture. Not to my own definition, not to other people’s but to God’s. I will lift up my husband and make my marriage a priority, giving a testimony of how God perfects us in in-perfect moments. I will work hard, even when I’m tired – but I will reach out for help in humility rather than growing resentful because I’m too proud. I will find strength in Jesus instead of relying on my own, trusting God even when my world is upside down – but I will speak my promise into existence and give testimony to His goodness.
Because until we remove this porcelain mask that we force on each other of the perfect woman, we will never be able to shape the next generation of women.
“Live lives worthy of God, who calls you…”