By Laura L. Wood
“I’m trying to model myself after the Proverbs 31 woman,” I heard my friend say. Inwardly, I cringed. The proverbial Proverbs 31 woman. The Wonder Woman of the Christian world. While she doesn’t twirl a magic lariat or fly in an invisible jet, she does just about everything else. I resented her most of my adult life.
Since I remained single until nearly age 30, I felt no connection to her as I matured into womanhood. Her praise came solely from her service to her husband and children. What about women without husbands and children? Did they count in the large scheme of things? I knew plenty of single women who worked hard serving God and others, but Proverbs 31 seemed to leave them out.
When I married, I resented her perfection. How could I ever live up to a woman who awoke before dark, spun, wove, and sewed her family’s clothes, bought and sold real estate for apparent huge profits, and still had time to manage an entire household—and care for the poor and needy? I can barely drag myself out of bed 40 minutes before my kids get on the bus, and I have even been known to feed my children cookies for breakfast in an effort to get out of the house in time! I knew Proverbs 31 Woman would never stoop to sugar for breakfast. Not only did I resent her, I didn’t care to hear about her, much less read the passage detailing her perfection.
Maybe She’s Not that Bad
Then a few months ago I caved. I opened my Bible to Proverbs and turned to the chapter about Wonder Woman. Beginning skeptically, I read the list of her accomplishments. As I read, I attempted to think about her without judgment. She made it into the Bible, after all. Surely I could learn from her if I refrained from mocking her in an attempt to make myself feel better about my own shortcomings.
I started by wondering how this book would sound if written in today’s culture. I don’t wear purple linen or buy vineyards. How does this apply to me? Then I began to notice that I do many of the things she did.
While I don’t spin my own wool, I provide clothing for my family, and I have even been known to turn out a few handmade items from time to time. I don’t bring food from afar or grow it with my own hands, but I provide food from the grocery store and earn the money myself to buy it. I don’t clothe my children in scarlet winter clothing, but I provide school uniforms for them and make sure they wear the proper clothes for the season.
My children have yet to call me blessed, but they’re still young. They have time, and I do receive plenty of “I love Mommy” cards and sweet kisses. Rereading Proverbs 31 in light of today’s lifestyle, I felt somewhat encouraged that, as a mom of young children, I do much of what she did.
As I read it, however, I also realized my shortcomings. The big one: my attitude. I might be able to dispense wisdom and faithful instruction, as she did, but do I do it in a way that makes my husband and children grateful for their wise wife and mother, or in a way that makes them shudder at the thought of me voicing my opinion?
Do I demand recognition for my work? Well . . . at times, yes! A few times I have found myself standing in the middle of a chaotic household saying such things as, “I worked all day to clean this! Doesn’t anyone even notice?” After a particularly difficult period in our family, my little preschooler said, “I’m not sure I ever want to be a mom. It’s just too hard.” My heart broke because I had made the job look so miserable that she never wanted to take it on! Sometimes I can’t “laugh at the days to come” because I can’t even think of any days but the one I’m struggling through!
Maybe I Can Learn From Her
Instead of resenting and mocking her, what can I learn from Proverbs 31 Woman? First of all, I can find contentment in my place in life. Since I’m married with a family, I can provide for them cheerfully and wholeheartedly. Proverbs 31 Woman doesn’t complain and whine when she “rises while it’s still night.” She just rises. She doesn’t berate her children for not dressing on time for school. She just does what it takes to get them ready.
This applies to single women as well. Single women can still sacrifice for others, make their own way in the world, and commit themselves to others’ well-being. Single women have the unique ability to choose for themselves how to live out this passage. While a married woman must commit herself to her husband and children, a single woman listens to God’s leading and serves those to whom he sends her.
I have known plenty of single young women who wish away their flexibility by devoting all of their energy to finding a husband instead of jumping into God’s work and serving others. Similarly, I know plenty of married women who wish away their marriage and their children’s youth by dreaming of all of the things they’d do if they weren’t “tied down” with family obligations.
Second, Proverbs 31 Woman showed exceptional liberalism in a conservative world. In the Old Testament world, many men treated women barely better than animals; yet the Bible devotes quite a bit of time describing in great detail what this woman did that made her so integral in the life of her family. The Bible depicts a noble wife, a woman of good character, as a prize to be appreciated and cherished. This shows me that God does care about women and that he notices and appreciates what we do on a daily basis. Women are important in families and in God’s kingdom.
Third, Proverbs 31 Woman gives me hope. As a woman, as a wife and mother, I do many of the things mentioned in the passage. If I do those without even realizing it, how much better can I become at my job? If I devote myself to God and use his strength, I can grow as a wife and mother. I do not have to resent Proverbs 31 Woman. I can strive to improve in the areas she points out to me as weaknesses in my own life.
Let’s face it. Proverbs 31 Woman did not exist. She simply embodies the ideal woman, the perfect one. None of us will ever accomplish all of her feats effortlessly and perfectly, but she points out to us what areas we could improve. Instead of hating her for it, I can embrace her and use God’s strength and wisdom to make some improvements in my service to him and to my family.
Laura L. Wood is a freelance writer in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Proverbs 31: A Guide and Encouragement
As a woman, it’s easy to look at Proverbs 31 and find fault with yourself; but to do that questions God’s wisdom and slows down the work he’s doing in you. Instead look at Proverbs 31 as a guide and encouragement. It can actually be a safeguard against the negativity and low self-worth that affect many women today.
• Read over the chapter with encouragement in mind.
• Write down no fewer than five positive qualities from the chapter (or elsewhere in Scripture) that you possess.
• Write down no more than two positive qualities from the chapter (or elsewhere in Scripture) that you’d like to work on.
• Place your list where you’ll see if often.
Good Reading for Moms (and Dads) from Standard Publishing
I Married Wonder Woman . . . Now What? A Superhero’s Guide for Leading and Loving the Proverbs 31 Wife
by Jess MacCallum
Queen Mom: A Royal Plan for Restoring Order in Your Home
by Brenda Garrison
Princess Unaware: Finding the Fabulous in Every Day
by Brenda Garrison