“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 30: 10-12
It could be said that Proverbs 31 is considered God’s “gold standard” for virtuous womanhood. Most women I know feel this is an impossible goal to reach. I do not believe that Proverbs 31 is so much about what a woman must “do” as it is about what a woman can “be.” The woman depicted here is not a “shrinking violet” or a “doormat.” This is a woman who walks confidently and boldly in the gifts that God has given her and, as for her husband, she “does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12). This is a woman who exhibits excellence in what she does, thereby blessing her husband and children in great measure. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.‘ “(Proverbs 31:26-29). This is a woman who has the confidence of her husband and has his blessing as she develops all of her God-given talents and abilities.
You might guess that I am a proponent of strong, competent, and capable women. These women are resilient; they face life’s many challenges with faith, courage, and strength of character. The women who, with their pioneering husbands, settled our country and expanded its borders, are a perfect example of what I mean. They worked tirelessly along side of their husbands, building a place for their families, and helped to birth our nation. These women were no “hot-house flowers.”
My daughter, Hannah, comes from a long line of competent, capable, and intelligent women: a paternal great-grandmother with a Masters in Education (she wasn’t allowed to get a Masters in Mathematics, her first choice, because it wasn’t considered to be a “woman’s field” at that time); twin paternal great-aunts with Ph.D.’s in English and Literature; a maternal great-grandmother who went to the mission field as a young single woman, not marrying until her mid-thirties; and a maternal grandmother who finished her college education over a ten-year period with three small children, graduating as valedictorian of her class. With the exception of the twin great-aunts who remained single until they died at 104 years of age, the others had strong marriages of long duration and the full support of their husbands. Each one of these women loved the LORD and served Him with their whole heart. This is an incredible spiritual heritage and a testament to what a godly marriage can and should be and speaks highly of their husband’s character as well.
The Beatitudes tell us in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” For me, until recently, meekness has always been equal to “weakness.” It seems that much of the American church also equates meekness with pacifism. The best example of meekness I have ever heard is that of a horse who is completely “rein trained.” This horse is so well-trained, and in tune with his rider, that he is waiting for the slightest pressure of the reins on his neck to tell him which direction he is to go. This is true meekness: strength under complete control. This is how God desires to lead us by the Holy Spirit.
By this definition, a “Proverbs 31 woman” should be a “meek” woman. She walks obediently in the ways of her God, fulfilling His call on her life. She does not fear the future because she knows that God is her Protector and her Guide. She is confident that her contribution is necessary, and is ready and willing to meet the needs of others. Her heart is generous, and when she speaks, wisdom is evident. She fears the LORD and ministers life to those she meets. She passes down to the next generation a spiritual heritage; her legacy will be evident in the lives of all those that she has touched.
This was eloquently stated in 1852 by Edward Mansfield in “Woman:”
“There is a beautiful parallelism between the condition of woman in her domestic life, and the character of a nation. She is the mother of men, and the former of their minds, at that early age when every word distils upon the heart, like the dew-drop upon the tender grass. There is to that young mind no truth or falsehood in the world but that whose words flow from the mother’s lips. There is no beauty in character, nor glory in action, which has not been concentrated by her praise. There is to that climbing child no path where the mother’s feet has not trod. Her mind is to his the supernatural pillar of fire which illumines his mid-night ignorance, and the silvery cloud which at mid-day precedes him in every highway to the world.
And, even when science has conducted her pupil through the highest walls of knowledge; or when art has polished him into the accomplished citizen; or when power has dignified him with the memorials of office, she still lives in his soul, which she has imbued from her heart’s ‘pictured urn, With thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.”
Many women tend to think their professional contribution is more important than their contributions at home. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is easy for us to focus on ever-increasing piles of laundry and dishes or the never-ending housework. It would be easy to overlook those “teachable moments” when our children’s hearts are wide open and ready to receive godly wisdom. The seeds of wisdom we plant in each of those moments bears eternal fruit. And, they will continue to bear fruit for succeeding generations as our children pass down to their children that which we have so carefully taught them.
In a perfect world (alas, I don’t live in one!) I would do all of these things well every day. Of course this doesn’t happen, but each day I can do my best as God enables me. The rest I must leave in God’s hands. And when I fail, which I regularly do, His grace, mercy, and forgiveness allow me to start the next day with a clean slate.
My husband will tell you that a strong man generally desires a strong woman for his wife. He recognizes that, like two horses in harness, both must be strong or the team will fail to run the race that is set before them. In our culture, we tend to define strong women as bossy, boisterous, and pushy, but God sees a strong woman as one who has been tempered as steel and refined like silver. It is His manifested presence in a woman that makes her strong. It is not a personality trait but a heart issue.
It is the heart of a “Proverbs 31” woman that makes her home a safe haven for her family; a place of peace where they can find rest from the struggles of their lives. It is the quiet strength of her heart that soothes her husband and children when their hearts are filled with pain. It is the godly wisdom in her heart they turn to when confusion fills their minds and they don’t know what to do. It is her heart, completely captivated by the love of her Saviour, that is the conduit of His love for them. It is her heart, where the King of Kings reigns, which gives her the strength to become a “Proverbs 31 woman.”
“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32: 16-18 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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