The Wife of Noble Character
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night, she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds a distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed, she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instructions is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Prov. 31:10-31
Years ago, my husband and I attended a home meeting that had a very diverse group of people come, although not always the same people. One evening a new gentleman came in and joined the meeting. This was a serious prayer meeting, without a lot of superfluous chatter, and the 20 or so people in attendance got right down to business, praying not only for the needs of others, but more purposefully for a deeper walk and relationship with God. It was a great time to spend in the presence of God, and always uplifting and refreshing.
After a time of worship and prayer, the new gentleman attendee looked right at me and said, “Mrs. Gilbert, I believe the Lord has shown me that you are a true Proverbs 31 woman!”. ( Mrs. Gilbert?!? wow! I wasn’t used to having another adult call me that–I’ve always just been Peg, or Peggy, or to one really sweet 90 year old gentleman in church who was hard of hearing:, “Betty”. I did tell him once that my name was Peggy, but he said, “well, you look like a Betty to me:, so, Betty it was) Sorry, I digress. Anyway, that’s it, that’s all he said. Now, I had read Prov. 31 multiple times, but I can’t say I ever really studied it. Every time I read it I would just think “well, this sure isn’t me, and thank you Lord that I live now and not when this was written!” So when this gentleman spoke these words, I found myself fighting to control not only the smirk I felt overtaking my face, but my tongue (I have always been pretty quick-witted). As I looked around the gathered group, I could see some of the ladies rolling their eyes as if to say “huh?? Peg?!? Boy, did he get that wrong!”. My husband, however, was nodding in agreement with the man. Seriously, Jim was nodding in agreement. I figured he was nodding because he thought the poor soul was nuts, or because he figured he’d better nod in the affirmative to make it look good. I decided, though, that I needed to go re-read this, and do some research to see who the heck that delusional man thought I really was.
After reading it again several times, I thought “nope. Just not seeing it”. But, being stubborn and determined, I was going to dissect it until I could figure out how to be the perfect Prov. 31 woman! So, line by line, I looked for me:
- “Worth more than rubies” My first reaction was: “Darn straight I am!” (ahem), but, in all honesty, while one might consider me a diamond in the rough, I have always thought I was fairly worthless, so no. No. this doesn’t fit
- “Husband has full confidence” ok, yeah, I guess he does. He just likes to come home from work and know everything is handled, and I handle it, so, good to go there! But, maybe on second thought, I don’t handle things well, and I would think being able to handle all things well is a pre-requisite, so, nope, this doesn’t fit me either. sigh…
- “Brings him good, not harm…” Well, I haven’t killed him in his sleep yet, so I guess it’s all good.
- “Like a merchant bringing food from afar.” We lived 8 miles from the nearest grocery store at that time, so I guess 8 miles is “afar”, right?
- “Gets up at night and provides food for her family, etc…” Well, I hadn’t slept the entire night since # 1 was born, but I can’t say I got up to provide food for them. They were all way past bottle stage, so while I was up, they were not. Geez, Louise! Another failure!
- “Portions for her female servants.” Yeah, right—I was the female servant, and I certainly did feed myself, but I don’t think serving oneself is what God had in mind. oh, man, what a loser I am!
- “Works vigorously, strong arms, lamp doesn’t go out“… Hmmm..well, I got done what I had to (throwing everything into a closet and quick slamming the door, and then putting Pine Sol in the toilet so the house smelled like I cleaned all day counts as vigorous work, right?). My arms are hefty and waddle, but I can manage to pick up my cup of coffee without spilling it, anyway. And yes, there is always a night light on so if one of them has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night they won’t wake me up because they are scared of the dark. ok. again, too self serving, so I can’t own this either.
- “Profitable trading“. Nope, not me. I don’t trade. Although for a time there I really liked buying things on the E-Bay.
- “Holding a distaff and holding the spindle with my fingers”. I have no idea what that means, but I can steer the car with my knee while brushing my hair and putting on mascara, so maybe that will do.
- “Extends her hands to the needy and helps the poor“. Yep—I give to Goodwill whenever I can, and dear Lord, everybody in the family and our circles of friends who has needed a place to stay has lived with us at one time or another, so man oh man, I have got this one down!! woo hoo! I’m getting there!
- “No fear for the household”. Really? Is there ever a day that has gone by since giving birth that my heart wasn’t in my throat if they were out of my sight for a minute? Totally fail this one. I battle fear for them every day. Sigh….
- “Makes coverings for the bed“. Well, I did make a bedspread once for my daughter’s room, so yep—that’s me! Although I don’t actually make the beds–unless closing the bedroom doors so no one can see them counts as “covering” them.
- “Clothed in fine linen and purple“. hmmm…I would imagine that a woman of that era clothed in fine linen and purple was kind of like June Cleaver vacuuming in a dress, heels and pearls. Nah..not me, I am strictly a jeans and sneakers kind of gal.
- “Husband respected at the city gate“. Well, everyone loves Jim and respects him, but I don’t have anything to do with it. In fact, I’m quite sure most people pity him for getting me as a wife. He could have done better, really.
- “Speaks with wisdom; faithful instructions” … Well, if wisdom and sarcasm are the same thing, then ok. And if “I swear by all that is holy if you kids don’t get in here this minute and clean up I’m going to throw out everything you own” counts as faithful instructions, then I guess, maybe, ok.
- “Watches the affairs of her household and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness“. um,,er..well. Honestly, in those days, I loved some idle time when I could sit and watch the affairs of General Hospital and overload on carbs, so no, no way on this one!
- “Her children arise and call her blessed“. ummm…snicker..giggle..tee hee hee…snort…gufaw…snort… ..bwaaahahahahahahah. oh my…I was doing this little study during the teenage years. I hardly think “blessed” is what they were calling me.
ok, so I was a total failure. My house was clean, but clutter didn’t bother me much in those days, so it was always a little untidy. Packing lunch for the kids? Well, I would just grab a yogurt, an apple and some peanut butter crackers and a tastykake and give them milk money and send them on their way. Our son was ok with it, because he said everyone always wanted to trade with him since his whole lunch consisted of snacks. But my daughter told me once that she was jealous of other kids’ lunches. One girl came to school everyday with a thermos of home made soup and a sandwich, and her mom cut the sandwich into shapes like hearts and would write little “miss you” notes on her napkins. (I just figured that mom was doing crack or something and had all kinds of unnatural energy to use up. I mean, really, who does that?) I have always been a really good cook, though, so I thought I was good there because I made great dinners every night from scratch. Until some church lady super mom told me I was poisoning them with my carb-laden, fat-laden Italian cooking and I should be making my own granola and stuff and feed them raw stuff and no more meatballs and sausage. Heap on the guilt. And, I worked. Part time in the early years, and then full time when the oldest was about 15. So I missed some of the sports and after school activities. yup. Total failure. That was me. It was a wonder I hadn’t put them all into diabetic comas with my cooking and snack lunches.
So I tried to change my ways and become the perfect little wifey and super mom that I thought would make me fit the mold. I started making the beds and doing Suzie homemaker tasks. I made vegetable soup and bought a thermos and packed PB & J sandwiches. I tried to find recipes for home made granola (did you ever try to find recipes for that kind of stuff before we all had computers and internet?) I subscribed to Mother Earth News and seriously tried to talk myself into making a compost heap. That concept only lasted until I realized that critters like rats love compost heaps, so I never even started it. I turned off the General Hospital (going into Luke and Laura withdrawal), and tried to stop poisoning them with my Italian cooking. Yep, I was on a roll! I still worked outside the home, but we really needed the income to pay the bills, so that’s the way it was.
Child #1 complained that the soup got cold in the thermos and the PB & J got mushy. Child # 2 was upset because he no longer had any lunch time trading power. Child # 3 said the sheets were “too tight” since I started actually making the beds and not just pulling up the covers. Jim thought I was crazy. It seems that he never wanted a “yes” woman, a woman who hung on his every word and waited on him hand and foot. He couldn’t believe it when I got up with him and packed his lunch, but he didn’t like that I wrapped his sandwich in plastic wrap instead of waxed paper. I upset his morning routine. He was used to having “alone” time at 6:00 a.m. I thought he was going to have a heart attack when I started doing his laundry again (I hadn’t done his laundry for about 15 years [a story for another time], and when I started doing it again he started complaining that his clothes were too soft because I used fabric softener. Seriously?!?! I am trying to be a Proverbs wife here, buddy! Geez!!!! Now I have to repent again for evil thoughts! Man, I missed the General Hospital and idle carbs!! The kids didn’t seem to like me any better, either. So, God, since I’m such a failure, I’ll just go back to to the way it was and repent morning, noon and night. Which is exactly what I did. My efforts at super woman lasted about a week.
The years went on, the kids grew up and survived me as their mother. Jim is still happily doing his own scratchy laundry, and I am now looking at the Proverbs 31 woman through older, wiser eyes. You see, there is the final verse that I always seemed to ignore: ” Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Ahhhh. I see it now. It doesn’t matter what era of mankind you live in, 400 B.C. or 2014 A.D. The Proverbs 31 woman is summed up as one who fears the Lord. You see, it’s not our works that make us pleasing, but the fear (love, reverence) of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, our desire to please Him, and allow Him to mold us, that will make us the Prov. 31 woman. This is what will make our husband praise us, our children honor us, and those at the “city gate”–those that don’t know the Lord, will want to have what we have. As we submit to the mighty Hand of God in our lives, we reflect Christ, and that is the secret! It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, a working mother, a single mom, and childless wife or a single woman. It doesn’t matter if you pack snacks and make beds. It matters that you try to be the best “you” that you are, and build your relationship with God. You will be a Proverbs 31 woman when you let go and let God lead and guide you. The only way to become that woman, is to yield to Him, and let Him clothe you in His righteousness. I can really get into a very deep study about this, but that is for another time.
I am humbled to know that I am a work in progress, being honed by the refiner’s fire. I love my husband and I do honor him. I know how blessed I am to have him. I especially appreciate how he has always loved me just as I am: sarcastic wit, unmade beds and all. I look back on my life and see many things I could have handled differently and better, especially where the children are concerned, but I can honestly say that I tried my best, and all three of them are pretty amazing people. I count it all as part of the learning process, and accept that fact that perfection is not possible, but the process of being perfected is pretty awesome! So yes. Yes. I am that woman, in 2014!
I am reminded of of one of my very favorite verses: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”. (1Peter5:6)