This is an article I wrote back in February based on a revelation that really changed my life. I pray it blesses you as well.
I had secretly hated that Proverbs 31 woman for years — that uppity overachiever. I wanted to smack her hard. Oh yes, I have seen the Mighty Warrior teachings and all that — but it never stopped me from hating her. Mostly because this is how I read it:
She gets up bright and chipper every morning, and makes breakfast for everyone
Her children rise up without complaint and thank her for the wake up call, they are perfectly behaved and all straight A students.
She dresses them in the finest fashions, and she never has a hair out of place
She is beautiful, with no unwanted fat, and she never ages.
She gets pregnant when she wants to, without problems, and she is a perfect lover for her husband because she never tires.
She provides her family with tasty, gourmet dishes.
She has her own home-based business, despite homeschooling her perfect brood.
Her husband loves to show her off because she is still so smokin’ hot.
She is smart, and witty and always knows the right thing to say or do.
Her children never fight, they love and respect her too much for that.
She tirelessly does charity work because her family is so well-functioning they hardly need her at all.
Her children become doctors and lawyers and never go on to work at Burger King.
Need I go on? But yesterday, on my way back from shopping, I heard the voice of the Spirit.
Is she beautiful, is she thin, or is she judged by what she does? Does it say she has to do all of those things — is it a “to do” list, or is there something larger being communicated?
I was looking at Proverbs 31 as a to do list that I was failing to measure up to — not as a picture of a woman who is there for people, meeting whatever needs she can meet. And I realized, that she isn’t my enemy after all, she is actually an idealized version of who I already am. She isn’t judged by how she looks, only by the fact that she dresses in accordance with her husband’s esteem. Nothing is said about her face, or her love handles, or about how her children behave or achieve. Or even if she ever gave birth or not. Here is the TDR (Tyler Dawn Rosenquist) version of Proverbs 31 (aka the unauthorised version)
Her husband trusts her, she is not a trophy or arm candy. She is an asset to his life and he values her. She treats him well and cares for him. She buys what they need and uses it to provide for the family. She makes sure they are fed, and takes care of their employees as well, not mistreating them. She is recognized as smart enough to make financial decisions for the family, and does not squander the benefits of it. She makes sure her family is clothed and clean. She makes sure that they have warm clothes for the winter months, and she sees to it that her house repairs are not neglected so that the family will not suffer cold. She never embarrasses her husband, nor does she drive him in to poverty — leaving him free to do the things he needs to do. She uses her skills for those who have need of them, whether they need food made, or to have clothing bought, or their house cleaned during times of illness, or a shoulder to cry on, or lips to offer prayers with. She is such a blessing to people that they don’t notice how she looks, they notice who she is. She studies the Torah and it seasons her speech. She doesn’t neglect to keep track her her household, the finances, and the needs of her family. She doesn’t let them lack so that she can be lazy all the time, they have clean clothes, food to eat and shelter. Her husband and children call her blessed and they appreciate her (adding this: even though the kids might say otherwise when they get angry). Loveliness can sway a man’s heart into an unsuitable match, and prettiness can lead to vanity, it is useless. Find a woman who fears YHVH, don’t hold her back, or deny her credit for what she accomplishes, let people judge her by who she is and what she does.
Are you sure you aren’t a Proverbs 31 woman? The Proverbs 31 woman is not superwoman, she simply does and does and does. She is not etched in marble, but etched into the lives of the people she serves. That list was never supposed to be a to do list, but a recognition of the things an excellent woman is capable of and really, does on an everyday basis, or at least as needed.
An excellent woman is not thin, or gorgeous — if she was then most of us would have a good reason to judge YHVH for not making us physically attractive in the eyes of the world. That is Greek thinking, when we judge our excellence according to how things look — we need to judge our excellence based on what we do.
When your child takes the wrong path, were all your labors truly in vain? If you put on a bunch of weight having children, does it diminish the care you give to others? If you lack the ability to teach your own children, are you a failure for having someone else to it? Or do you get credit for providing for their education as you are able? Do you do and do and do and do? Are your family’s needs (wants aren’t vitally important) met within your ability to provide? Isn’t that excellent enough for you?
Sometimes it is as important to read what a verse says as it is to find out what a verse does not say. I challenge everyone to go through Proverbs 31 and see if the standards you hold yourself to are NOT written there. Why hold yourself to standards that do not define the biblical ideal of feminine excellence?
And while we are at it — you will notice something important about the woman in the sculpture — the perfect Greek woman, a beautiful woman to be sure, but apart from having no tan whatsoever, she also has no arms. The perfect Hebrew woman would have arms, to do and do and do and do — and then rest on the Sabbath.