No one's ever called me a Proverbs 31 woman. Now I realize that there's a large swath of Christian women for whom this would be the ultimate compliment, for me, it's just plain laughable. It's just too far-fetched. I don't get up before dawn to provide food for my family, even at gun point. And I can count on no fingers the number of times I've worked 'eagerly' with flax and wool (I'm actually allergic to wool--which is pretty convenient, come to think of it!). Though I have to admit, if I was fortunate enough to have servants, I'd probably do just about anything--feed, clothe, wash their feet--to keep them happy in my household.
Then there's the whole business portion of Proverbs 31. Again, about as close to me as the farthest corner of the galaxy from here. Buying a field, planting a vineyard? I don't think so. Trading profitably? Another absolutely not--in fact, Beve often wishes I'd sell some of my quilts which I insist on giving away. And wants to have garage sales, the very suggestion of which give me hives. My quilts aren't for sale. Not to me. The ONE I sold left a bitter taste in my mouth, until I discovered that it actually went to someone in great need spiritual care. My point is that I don't like to take money for stuff that will benefit others. I can't tell you why this is so for me, it just is.
And then there's working vigorously. Hmm. One of the truths of my life is that my physical body has been rendered weak. There is more atrophy than muscle on my left side.
And so it goes. I really could go through the entire passage, phrase by phrase, showing how little my life is like the 'wife of Noble Character.' But finally, toward the end, we get to the crux of the matter, "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...her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Even if I never do a single thing listed practically in this passage, if I am clothed with strength and dignity, if I can laugh at the days to come and speak with wisdom, my children and husband WILL call me blessed. I believe this. It is not a matter of what I do but who I am that makes me a woman of noble character. This is what I believe, and it's what has been my talisman as a wife and mother when Proverbs 31 is trotted out, as it is from time to time. You know what I mean, if you're a woman.
But I've learned something in the last ten days. Something of a practical matter that speaks to this passage as my more simple life hasn't taught me. The lives of the woman to whom this passage was written very likely had many children and dependents in her household from whom she was responsible. She had to work from pre-dawn hours to late at night just to keep up, just to feed and water and make sure everything went smoothly. So, in these days I've realized how much it takes to keep a household of ten working. The machinery of a household doesn't care for itself. I have plenty of help. Young women offer repeatedly to be sous-chefs, they rise to do dishes without being prompted. But the floors need sweeping, water jugs need refilling, the refrigerator must be re-stocked and re-arranged to fit the larger quantity of food necessary to feed this family.
But I am not the only Proverbs 31 woman here. In fact, I'd say we all are. Just this afternoon, the girls helped Beve and his brother shovel bark on flower beds so we could get a car into the driveway for Grampie. And tonight, Grampie had a rather disasterous episode which required emergency care in the bathroom. One might call it combat care, which I cannot do without feeling a bit sick myself. A niece stepped in without flinching. Another instantly did the dishes. If we're a machine, we're a well-oiled one. A Proverbs 31 well-oiled one. I don't know how we did it, my Finnish sister-in-love and I. But with God's help, we raised daughters who are women of noble character. We're watching them become this summer. Together in the kitchen. Together with their Grampie who now doesn't even know their names. Together with each other (three of whom are outside tonight sleeping in a tent, with all our deck furniture's cushions piled inside as their beds). And with the baby my niece brought from Pullman just for them to play with for a few days (and herself, of course--it was good to see her too, really it was!). As a mom, more that being such a woman myself, I love seeing it in my daughters.
A [woman] of noble character, who can find?