Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Proverbs 31: a worthy goal?

It seems like pieces from Proverbs 31 can be found everywhere. Open up any self-proclaimed Christian woman's Pinterest page and you are likely to find:

There's even a direct sales company, Thirty One, based on the tenants of Proverbs 31. (Their products are adorbs, by the way. My teacher bag is from that company and I love it).

So what does Proverbs 31 say? From The Message translation
A good woman is hard to find,    and worth far more than diamonds.Her husband trusts her without reserve,    and never has reason to regret it.Never spiteful, she treats him generously    all her life long.She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,    and enjoys knitting and sewing.She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places    and brings back exotic surprises.She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast    for her family and organizing her day.She looks over a field and buys it,    then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,    rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.She senses the worth of her work,    is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,    diligent in homemaking.She’s quick to assist anyone in need,    reaches out to help the poor.She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;    their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.She makes her own clothing,    and dresses in colorful linens and silks.Her husband is greatly respected    when he deliberates with the city fathers.She designs gowns and sells them,    brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.Her clothes are well-made and elegant,    and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,    and she always says it kindly.She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,    and keeps them all busy and productive.Her children respect and bless her;    her husband joins in with words of praise:“Many women have done wonderful things,    but you’ve outclassed them all!”Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.    The woman to be admired and praised    is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.Give her everything she deserves!    Festoon her life with praises!

Some people admire the Proverbs 31 woman: she is an ideal and the ultimate standard of Christian womanhood. However, to some, the Proverbs 31 woman is out of touch with reality and holds herself and others to unattainable standards. What do I think? I think it's important to have goals and one will never improve/be their best self without a model to achieve. The Proverbs 31 woman is admirable and I do believe emulating her is within reach for the modern woman. But HOW?? Proverbs 31 is not written as an instruction manual. So.....she "clothes herself in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future." She "looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." 3 cheers for you, Proverbs 31 Woman, but how do you do it all and am I expected to do the same? Because I'm not sure I'll ever "shop around for the best yarns and cottons" and I'm not sure I've ever risen before dawn to make breakfast for my husband. 

I just finished a really great book on this topic. In, "My So Called Life As a Proverbs 31 Wife," Sara Horn chronicles her attempts to the Proverbs 31 woman. What she discovers is most likely what each of us would uncover if we partook on a similar experience: Perfection was never the intention. Perfection was never the goal. Being your best self is the goal. And as for that lingering "HOW?!" The answer is simple: Not alone, that's how. Ultimately the ideals of the Proverbs 31 Woman would never exist without relying on God's perfection and provision. He's perfect so we don't have to be. But relying on God and getting to know Him better does not come without some big life changes. You will want....wait for will crave and desire.....being a Proverbs 31 woman yourself. You can't know God's character and not want to strive to be better each day. Aside from the most important element in your corner (God), you have your spouse. I rely on AJ each and every day and he does the same with me. We are a partnership and being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about "doing it all for your husband" (and children) as many people erroneously believe. It's about leaning into your partner in life and wanting to be the best you can not only FOR him but BECAUSE of him. 

In addition, we are blessed with friends and companions. Female friendships are a holy thing. We can look to one another and say "Me too" and know that as ladies, we are on this path together. Striving doesn't need to mean stress. Being a Proverbs 31 woman does not mean we always have perfect meals on the table, thriving career goals, time for charity and a Zumba class, Pinterest-worthy outfit combos, peaceful and joyful relationships, a perfect tidy home, or restorative "me time" indulging in a 3 hour "Fixer Upper Marathon." (speaking from experience on that one). It might mean we have one or two of those things. Or that one of those things takes a back seat in a certain season of life. And that's ok. Being a Proverbs 31 woman means we wake up each day, wanting the very best for ourselves and our loved ones. We want a happy home and joyful marriage.We want great careers and satisfying relationships. We want hobbies and financial security and success. We want it all ,and we can have it all. Just not alone. Never alone. The Proverbs 31 woman is a real woman who sometimes burns the cookies and that's ok, because more often than not, she's also burning the candle at both ends. BUT she tries and she cares and she leans on the strength of others with her whole heart so she can shine for them and because of them. And yes, I want to be just like her. 

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