Tuesday, September 10, 2013

That Blasted Proverbs 31 Woman!

You’ve heard of the “Proverbs 31 woman,” right?

I’m sure you’ve at least heard the line, “Her children arise and call her blessed.” She’s sort of the Old Testament ideal of the perfect wife. Proverbs 31 (starting in verse 10) describes this great lady in detail. Many fine Christian women set great store by her and want to be like her—which is wonderful.

For many years, I positively despised her. If she had been real, I would have liked to get my hands on her, and not to give her a hug.

My bad attitude started in the early days of my marriage, which weren’t exactly ideal. Let’s just say we had a lot of adjusting to do. As a part of our adjustment, we went to a marriage conference. The leader asked us to write down some concrete things we would like our spouse to be or do—I can’t remember exactly how he worded the assignment. I’ve been married a LONG time. But I do remember that my dear hubby wrote down one line. “All I want is for you to be the Proverbs 31 woman.”

That’s all??!!

I wanted to snap back at him that all I wanted was for him to behave exactly like Jesus. But I bit that one back. The Proverbs 31 woman would never be so snarky.

In case you haven’t read Proverbs 31 lately, let me give you just a synopsis of this woman that I was supposed to be like. She gets up not just early, but while it’s still night—STILL NIGHT!—to start working. Her house is in perfect order. She spins and sews and makes beautiful coverings for the beds. She’s great at business—buys and sells fields for profit and sells things she makes—so she can take care of her family and give to the poor. Her family isn’t afraid of hard times, because she takes care of them. And of course, her children arise and call her blessed, and her husband praises her to everyone he meets.

For about two years after that, I couldn’t escape hearing about that dratted woman. The preacher seemed to preach about her every other week. I would turn on the car radio and the Christian family show would be talking about her, urging women to be like her. Daily devotionals, Sunday School lessons, conversations with other women at church…you get the idea.

For a woman who felt like a failure at this whole marriage and family business, I have to tell you, those messages could be pretty depressing. Not only did my children not call me blessed—I was facing infertility and couldn’t even manage to have children. And my husband was not exactly praising me in the streets.

Years went by. I stopped hearing so much about that blasted woman, for some reason, and stopped worrying about living up to her. Life became pretty full and hectic, anyway. We moved back to my hometown and I was so stressed and unhappy with my new job that I decided to get my master’s degree and become a librarian. My parents became elderly and my dad developed dementia and I spent a lot of time taking care of them. I taught an extra class at the college to get money to help with that, too. For my sanity, I took up quilting and beading and knitting, and even tried selling a bit of it. 

Through every bit of this, my hubby was supportive and sweet, a real shoulder to lean on. So I became sweeter, kinder, more respectful to him.

And one day, a few weeks ago, he said something that nearly made me fall over. He reminded me of the time he wrote down that he wanted me to be the Proverbs 31 woman, and then he said, “That’s what you are.”

For a moment, I thought he was delusional. But he had brought it up in the context of me caring for my parents, for my family. I got to thinking about that dratted woman again, and wondered if I had misjudged her. I thought about her making coverings for the bed and beautiful clothing for her family. So she had the same urges to quilt and knit and sew that I do! And that woman loved her family and would do anything to take care of them, which is always my first priority after serving God. We’re both career women mainly to be able to help our families, plus friends and acquaintances who might be having a hard time.

My attempts at selling (books or crafts) haven’t been as successful as hers, at least not yet. And this getting up while it’s still dark thing—well, we may just have to let that one go. I’ll never be as perfect as her. But my heart longs for the same things, and I’m striving toward the same goals.

Fortunately for me, my hubby seems to think that’s enough.