I’ve been thinking about Her lately. The elusive perfection of a woman called “The Proverbs 31 Woman”. I’ve actually had a few instances where men have told me that I am a Proverbs 31 woman. I’m embarrassed to even write that. It seems so narcissistic and vain. It’s a very uncomfortable compliment. Mainly because it’s typically from men, and from men who don’t really know me that well but know that I “do a lot” and I appear to be all about mothering, and all that jazz. Well, I kinda am I suppose. If you don’t know me well.
Recently a friend share her experience from a marriage enrichment class she is attending with her husband. This time they spent some time discussing my bible hero, Miss Prov 31. My friend was singled out and asked “What stands out to you about her?”. After some thought, her answer was that Miss 31 was a business woman, and that she obviously had servants to help her which must have been a relief. To her dismay she was confronted after the class for distracting from what they were ‘trying to teach’. The verses are about clearly about being a good wife and mother and THAT is what she should have seen out of these verses. She was told to go home and rethink her ‘career’ and how she parents her children.
So here’s my first problem. I’ve never found a good way to describe it until now, but I’ve been meditating on my hero, Miss 31, a good bit lately. I have come to believe that people often have the whole Bible wrong. It’s treated as a recipe book or a magic formula. If we could just figure out the proper combination or actions, prayers and taking everything including our time on the toilet captive, we will be perfect Christians. If we keep analysing and marking our ‘good deeds’ on a list we’ll make the grade. The more I draw closer to my God, I can’t believe that it works that way at all. There’s to much grace and mercy intertwined in the being of Christ for me to use a pharisaical filter like that on reading His Word.
The Bible is a novel full of passion, pain, sacrifice, love, bondage and freedom. Lots about freedom. It was written to draw our hearts and make us fall in love with our Creator. Yes, there are obviously some clear Do’s and Don’ts. I’m currently mourning a precious friendship lost due to a stand I was forced to make based on God’s obvious will. But adhering to the rules should be a desire that comes as a SIDE EFFECT of the love affair of our soul with the one who Created it.
So having said that, I find the issue of the Proverbs 31 woman to be quite the opposite of the popular Biblical assumption. Typically, I find that people will pick apart every word of every verse, tracing them back to the original Greek or Hebrew to unlock some mysterious intent. Not so with her. The description of Miss 31 begins in verse 10 and extends to the end of the chapter in verse 31. It’s long and detailed. But every teaching I’ve heard focuses on less than half of the proverb. The parts where her husband praises her, her children rise and call her blessed. Charm is deceptive, to be sure, but that’s just ONE verse out of twenty-two. These are the rewards and results of who she was. And who she was WAS more than these 22 verses tell us. That’s what I want to find. Her heart.
So in these verses it is quite clear that she was, in fact, a business woman with servants. I don’t intend to have servants. I wouldn’t want them. I think I would panic if someone wanted to fold my laundry. Wait, I think I HAVE before, more than once when it was offered. Sigh… I’m quite the mess…. So she spends every minute doing something productive. She doesn’t waste her time, blah , blah…
OK, here is what I see. Miss 31 had a passion for life and everything in it. She was creative and loved beauty and found a way to express it in a way that would bless her family financially. She was wise, shrewd, bold, confident, creative in her art and in what she feeds her family ( I like that one). She was giving and had a heart for the poor and needy. She was passionate. Not many women back then had scarlet and purple clothing but she loved the beauty of color. She had no fear of the future but ‘laughed at the days to come’ as if to say bring it on! It talks about her husband being respected, but not necessarily because of her. I wonder if their marriage was so full of love that it was written all over their faces and their passion became an honor to him?
To be honest, I know that I can’t live up to a list like that. If that’s what was required, I wouldn’t even try. I don’t think it’s healthy to use it as a checklist to work off of. What I do see is that this is the most clearly described woman of the Bible. This nameless woman who seems able to do anything and conquer all odds. My question is how did she get there?
This is what I believe. God called David a man after his own heart. I see these verses as the praise of a woman that God was well pleased with as well, so I will compare the two.
David was a mess. He was a murder, and adulterer, a liar. He wrote just as many Psalms of angst and pain as he did of praise and awe. He groveled in ashes and was told to stop, get up and be happy. He danced unabashed and was told to keep still. He was full of passion, yet made painful mistakes. Every single time he fell flat on his face before his Creator. He poured out his pain as shamelessly as his joys, knowing that his God was big enough to handle it all. And that He wanted it all. Oh how I love and desire a God like that, don’t you?
Provers 31 is an epilogue. The conclusion of her life, not a listing of her daily activities. It comes after everything is said and done. If we were to write an epilogue for King David it would be full of all of his victories and Triumphs. It would praise and honor him with every word. But there was more to him that that, to be sure. He was desperately human and flawed. He was wayward and stubborn. Yet he never ceased to humble himself before his Father and above all he NEVER EVER hardened his heart.
Miss 31 was described after the fullness of her life had been lived. She was the reward to a son who heeded his father’s word. That’s what the Proverbs are all about, teachings to a son. She is the prize. And I’m OK with that. I would be honored and I WANT to be a reward to my husband and children. But I know that she lived a life between the lines of this epilogue. She was passionate, full of trials and victories in life. I know that she was desperately flawed like me, and she struggled. But I believe she held her heart open to her God at all times.
So in my journey, I plan to work diligently with my budget, to be honorable with my business, to bless my husband and to raise my children as well as I can in my imperfection. I’ll blog about my life, my thoughts, my victories and yes, surely about my struggles. But I will be blatantly honest with my pain and burdens. As soon as something comes to mind I want to grab it and deal with it. That’s what this is really about. Because I know that the bottom line is that Miss Proverbs 31 had an amazing heart. I’m doing the best I can to find my Creator in all of my trials and joys because my list of accomplishments may not be like hers, but I want my HEART to be.