I want to talk to you about Proverbs 31, but before you slam your laptop shut and shove your fingers in your ears - hear me out. I want to talk about some deep truth that has nothing to do with traditional distortion. I want to talk about one passage in the Bible, without thrusting shame into the hearts of every new, or seasoned, wife.
I myself am not a fan of the subject. I gag a little at the very mention of it. I run in the opposite direction too.
This particular passage of the Bible has been seriously manipulated. It is taught so wildly out of context and so contrary to its original design, but it's still being taught. I think it might have something to do with the fact that women keep on swallowing it. What else are we supposed to do? We want to obey God. We want to honor His word. We want to find value and worth in SOMETHING, and it seems pretty specifically geared towards us.
But it's not. It's geared towards a man. It's written by a mother to her son. She's telling him what to look for - not describing a woman who actually exists. It's like, when I'm at lunch with Aravis and she's telling me about a boy in her class who makes one of her girlfriends cry. I ask her why she cries and she says it's because he says that girl isn't smart and other awful sad things. So I tell my eight year old that that boy is working out his own life experiences, but when she's ready to 'like' a boy', there's something really specific she should look for. She should look for a boy who treats other people with kindness, who is brave enough to stand up for the underdog, and who looks for beautiful characteristics in others. That makes him a beautiful boy and one who is worthy of her heart. I give her long lists of what that would look like because I'm preparing her heart to one day seek out the kind of man who will honor God and honor her. I know she won't find a perfect boyfriend or husband, but I'm going to keep reminding her of what makes a man good. Lord knows we've all already found the other ones.
When Aravis brings a boy home for the first time, I'm not going to pull out my long laundry list of what makes him valuable. I don't need to do that. I'm going to trust that I have raised my daughter to know her own worth so precisely that she will choose someone who reflects the strength of her own soul. If, God forbid, he comes screaming up to my house with 'bad boy' all over his countenance, we might revisit that talk. But, the point is, we can't forget the context of that Proverbs 31 list.
There are a lot of characteristics of that mother's desire for her son's wife that are profoundly deeper than we have even touched on. My dad has been writing a book on her for a long time and his insight is powerful, but for right here, in this blog post, lets just hit the foundation.
1. An actual woman is not being described. A mother's hope for her son's equal partner is.
2. We don't need to be ashamed that we don't bake bread, sleep 3 hours a night or beautifully craft our family's clothing. In that culture, in that time, those things were pretty norm and there were other people living in the same house who worked together to make that happen. If you lived with your in laws and husband's siblings you might not feel so overwhelmed by the massive amount of laundry. You wouldn't be doing it alone.
3. We also don't need to be ashamed if we work part, or full, time. Where on earth did we get the idea that godly women never earned a paycheck? Hogwash. Even this not-a-real-person woman makes shrewd business deals. She isrespected and loved - she contributes to her family's wealth and generosity.
4. Jessi of Naptime Diaries preached a MESSAGE at The Influence Conference a few weekends ago. It was HOLY, sisters. She broke down this Proverbs 31 list into the lies she hears when she reads it and into the TRUTH of the gospel of grace. Here's her truth list:
Did you catch all of that? Need to read it again? Go ahead.
Jessi said this one profound and holy thing: Proverbs 31 is Old Testament. It is pre-redemption. So, even if it WAS a reference to an actual woman, it has NOTHING TO DO WITH US RIGHT NOW because Jesus has fulfilled the law. He has redeemed, restored and rescued us. If, right now, you are trembling a little bit - me too, sister.
The most important thing you can be in your lifetime is not flawless. The most important thing you can be is you. Just you, in the light of grace; as you are, wounds, lumps, bad habits and all. You, sister.
If you are learning how to live a free and abundant life then you are doing the holiest thing imaginable. If you are crawling to the feet of Jesus, weak and tired, with frozen dinners under one arm and a cranky toddler under the other, then AMEN. You're coming to Jesus. You're growing. We're all cheering for you - those of us who are doing the same thing.
This subject is so important to our body image, because we are all standing on the brink of being crushed by the traditional perspective of what makes a woman valuable in the Body of Christ. There are books, bible studies, sermons and countless mediums of art trying to convince us to get really small so that we can fit into an unbiblical mold of femininity. So, when you hear, read or see something in the church that is preaching the revolutionary truth, stand up and cheer. Celebrate the scattering of truth in the world. Those seeds will take root, friends. We need them to take root.
Finding our worth in our deepest spiritual spaces is vital to finding freedom in our bodies, minds and hearts.
Today's challenge is so profound. Make your list. When you read Proverbs 31 what do you hear? What lies creep into your heart to shame and diminish you? Maybe even tack on the lies that have nothing to do with the book of Proverbs, but have invaded your sense of worth in the Family of God. When you've finished that list, ask God to give you a new list. Write your worth, sisters. You don't need to make yourself sound perfect, but acknowledge the fact that you are growing.