“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls” (Prov 31:10). This passage struck me anew the other day. Even though Proverbs 31:10-31 is titled “The Ideal Wife” the woman described in the passage has qualities that we can all seek to emulate – married or not. For truly, to paraphrase the beginning sentence, “When one finds a worthy, virtuous woman, her value is far beyond pearls.”
When I was single and in college and working I often read this passage and tried to figure out how I too could be “ideal.” In those days I settled on a few key phrases, like “She is clothed with strength and dignity, she laughs at the days to come” (31:25), and ” Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (31:30). I latched onto those confident that “I could handle that.” I can laugh at the future, and God and I were on good terms, so I figured that I had that “fearing the Lord” thing down already. So I continued on with life, confident that I could be “ideal” based upon these two verses that I liked while conveniently forgetting the rest of the passage.
Then this year happened. I am now married with four children and a husband who is going to school full-time using the GI Bill, because he was layed off. Finances got REALLY tight and I just recently took over handling all our money and bills. This was not something I really wanted to do, but it was what would help my husband with the stresses of classes and his crazy schedule, plus, I seem to have a knack for being a tightwad. Still, I was not thrilled with this new development, and not overly confident with my financial prowess.
I complained to myself, “I have children to homeschool, a house to clean, meals to cook, chores to do, and now I have to handle our budget, our bills, and all our purchases?! That’s too much! No woman should have to do all this! Then I remembered my ‘woman.’ The Ideal. Ah-ha! I thought to myself, I bet good ol’ Proverbs 31 Woman doesn’t have to do ALL THAT – so neither should I!
So then I grabbed my Bible and re-read Proverbs 31 – ALL of it – not just my favorite, easy verses. What I discovered embarrassed and dismayed me!
“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls…” OK, great, I am valuable and precious…hmm, I think I deserve flowers….
“Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, not evil, all the days of her life….” Unfailing prize, huh? I like the sound of that…
“She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands…” OOh shopping!
“Like merchant ships she secures her provisions from afar…” Uh-Oh, sounds like she might be in charge of purchasing too….
“She rises while it’s still night and distributes food to her household…” Oh great, there goes my sleep…and it sounds like she is pretty up on what she has in the house for breakfast…do I have cereal in my pantry??
“She picks out a field to purchase and out of her earnings plants a vineyard. She is girt about with strength and sturdy are her arms. She enjoys the success of her dealings; at night her lamp is undimmed…” Oh great. She really does do the family finances….and my arms need some work, where are my hand weights…enjoys her success huh? I wish I could enjoy some success…but I need sleep! When does this woman sleep?
“She puts her hand to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle…” Ah, so she does the chores too!
“She reaches out her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy…” OK, well I can do that, I enjoy donating money…except I am pretty sure that by all standards of income I would be considered poor myself!
“She fears not the snow for her household; all her charges are doubly clothed…” Ooh snow days! Yep, I have snowsuits for everyone!
“She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing…” Well, I like green…think thats OK?
“Her husband is prominent at the city Gates as he sits with the elders of the land…” Well, no kidding – he has a super-woman for a wife!
“She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts…” Oh my goodness, she has a job too!
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, she laughs at the days to come…” Oh favorite verse, you have taken on a new meaning…
“She opens her mouth in wisdom and on her tongue is kind counsel…” Oh, well, that sounds nice…I wonder if my blog counts…?
“She watches the conduct of her household and eats not her food in idleness…” Well no kidding! She has way too much else to do!
“Her children rise up to praise her; her husband too extols her: “Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all…’ ” My children throw tantrums at me..does that count?
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…” Yeah, I know all about that beauty thing….and I am sensing that ‘fearing the Lord” is a little deeper than I thought…
“Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city Gates…” rewards are nice….if I ever make it this far!
After reading the passage in light of my new life circumstances, I realized that I had little to complain about, and a lot to catch up on! It also made me realize that as women, we sometimes forget that while the men in our lives have important responsibilities, so do we.
It’s easy to start thinking of what we do as mundane and unimportant. Whether you go to an office every day, or stay home with the kids, whether you are married or single, entering religious life, or getting engaged, every day life can seem dull, repetitive, and routine. Its way too easy (as my recent experience has taught me) to feel resentful of new responsibilities and new circumstances. I wish I had instead welcomed my new situation as another way to strive for holiness – to “fear the Lord.” When it comes down to it, isn’t that what Proverbs 31 is about?
Here is a woman whose day – to – day responsibilities are outlined. She apparently does her best to accomplish what she must. It is for this that she is praised. What hope that gives us! This woman did nothing more that we know about, except carry out her tasks, fulfill her obligations, and maintain a cheerful, virtuous countenance as she did so. What is also noteworthy is that all her responsibilities involve taking care of others. None of this is about her, per-say. She gives to the poor, she clothes her family, provides for their nourishment, acquires that which they need, and she even finds time to ‘give kindly counsel’ to those who may need it. But isn’t that part of being a woman? God has afterall entrusted humanity to the woman in a unique and special way (see Anti-Woman Healthcare – HR 3962) So why wouldn’t part of our responsibilities as women be caring after others?
My point is this, whether or not you have children or a husband to “extol you,” your day-to-day, humdrum responsibilities are exactly what can make you “ideal.” They are a path to Holiness and Happiness – I mean, how many of us actually “Laugh at the days to come?” The only way we can do that is through a great Faith and Trust in our Father. Afterall, when we have done all we can do, God does and will provide for us and take care of us.
Maybe thats the Woman of Prov 31’s secret. She does what she has to, does what she can, and then relies on God, knowing He will do the rest. This is why she can laugh at the Days to come. She knows that ultimately her Trust is in Him, and He never fails.
Again, I say, What hope this gives us!
I mean, most of us will never purchase a field and plant a vineyard. Purchase wine, yes, I’m all about that, and consider myself quite the amateur connoisseur (OK, well not really, but it sounded nice…really I just like a nice a glass at the end of the day). So, no, we aren’t about to all open up vineyards and start making belts. We are however going to get up for work tomorrow, or wake up with (or before) the children and begin another day. Another ordinary day, accomplishing the same ordinary things. And it is THIS that can make us Ideal!