For years I’ve been at odds the with Proverbs 31 woman. To be honest, the way she has been preached as the over-achiever and refined role model for all women, simply drives me crazy. What if I do not get up before dawn, or make a profit to buy an investment, or make my own bedspreads, or wear the best and latest fashions (especially when my husband comes home at night)? Am I a pathetic failure?
Seriously, who can attain to those standards? Or better yet, who wants to?
Please don’t hate me, but I especially dislike the manner in which she often is exclusively portrayed in the most positive light as possible. Does she never disappoint anyone or lose her cool or feel insecure or inadequate? Does she ever fail miserably in frail moments with her family or bad decisions? Is she for real? For too long we have encapsulated this women around our own narrow views of womanhood.
Presenting this woman as an elusive role model to which we could never measure up surely cannot be the intent of Scripture. So my options were that I either have to dismiss this woman (and the passage of Scripture) as non-relevant (“She has never taken an iPhone away from a rebellious teenager.”) or I have to admit I didn’t have a right perception or full understanding of the Scripture…or the heart of God.
Proverbs 31: “Who can find a virtuous woman; her price is far above rubies!” Various Bible translations have used different words to describe this virtuous woman, such as noble character, excellent, capable, and good but none seem to give full weight to the original Hebrew word. The Hebrew word used to describe this woman is most often translated (56 times!) as “army” and 37 times as “man of valor”. Warrior, valiant, strength, power, might, strong. In fact, this is the same word to describe David’s mighty men!
She is not just capable or good, she is like an army, a force to be reckoned with and fierce protector; a mighty warrior who does the hard thing when it is needed.
Then I reread the passage and saw it with new eyes. The language is that of the dailyness of life over a lifetime. The description is that of strength, courage, and tenacity in the realities of whatever daily life we call ours. We do not spin wool and flax, or make belted linen garments to sell to merchants (or, perhaps we do and sell them on Etsy!) but we also drive kids (and their 3 friends) to soccer and stand in the rain for hours. We put apples in lunch boxes and make spreadsheets of our finances and build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
It takes courage to have the hard conversation with teenager or confront an obstinate boss or lazy employee.
It takes patience to respond with dignity to the person who tells you you should get a real job or that ‘their” child walked before they turned one.
It takes strength pursue a career, practice self-care and help with homework.
It takes a warrior for a single mom (with the weight of the world on her shoulders) to show up to work day after day; to fight discouragement and still find the energy to show up at the school science fair.
It takes tenacity to instill goodness in our children and eternal vigilance to teach them to pick up after themselves.
It takes a valiant heart in the face of loss to hold on to hope for the future and to believe this is not the end of the story.
It takes unwavering trust to believe that all this matters.
It takes faith that a life well-lived reaches farther than we could imagine and holds a place in the kingdom of God.