It was the second greatest day of my life. I will never forget the way I felt as I waited to walk down the aisle towards the love of my life. I was excited, nervous, and confident we were destined for a life of seamlessly perfect wedded bliss. I was determined to be June Cleaver reincarnated. It didn’t take long to realize that what defined an exceptional wife and mother in my mind was just not realistic and I was left floundering. If June Cleaver wasn’t realistic, what really did constitute being an exceptional wife and mother
When the TV sitcom failed me, I turned to Scripture (where I should have looked in the beginning). I turned with hopeful expectation to Proverbs 31, confident that I would be the perfect wife in no time. As I studied the expectations given by the Worthy Woman, I was filled with despair. How was it possible?
Fortunately, as I grew and matured as a wife and mother I realized that it was not the teaching that was out of reach, but the way I was understanding and applying the teaching through my preconceived ideas. While I have certainly not “arrived” as a wife and mother, I have gained some very practical insights from Proverbs 31:24-31 that have made my task a lot more manageable. I would like to share a few of these insights in the hope that they will help another disheartened mother.
Proverbs 31:24 “She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.”
In some ways this is a highly controversial verse. Is it Biblical for a married woman to work? Some say unequivocally yes while some say unequivocally no. It is important to remember that this verse is an example, not a command. It is also important to remember that we need to be very careful when judging the actions of others, particularly if we are not aware of the entire situation. Some women may need to work due to situations beyond their control. This is is clearly an example of a woman who worked to provide income for her family. That being said, I would like to point out a few things:
- It is clear from the context surrounding this verse that the Worthy Woman’s priority is her family and all that she does is with their best interests in mind. While she did contribute to the finances of her household, she was absolutely sure that her family did not have to suffer a decrease in her care and attention for her to do so.
- It appears that she worked from home. She made the garments herself, and based on the culture of the time it is a pretty safe assumption that she did this at home, and then delivered her products to a merchant for sale.
Sometimes being dignified means behaving in a very undignified manner. Dignity simply means to be worthy of honor and respect (Webster’s Dictionary). While it is not something that we would generally define as dignified behavior, I have tremendous respect for women I see running around with their children at the park, sitting on the floor reading to their children, and going out of their way to make sure their husband feels loved and respected.
Proverbs 31:26 “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
For a long time I found this verse very daunting. How am I to always open my mouth with wisdom?! Then I realized the simplicity of this expectation: Scripture. We are to have the word of God on our heart, and if that is the case then what we say and do will be wisdom from above.
Proverbs 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
“Hello, my name is Lacy, and I am a chronic plate over-filler.” Ah, confession is good for the soul! I am not very good at that very difficult two-letter word, “no”. There are so many good things to be done, and good works to be engaged in, so many fun activities for the kids, that if I am completely honest with myself I feel like a “slacker” when I say no. Invariably, the result is a messy house, meals of sandwiches and Ramen on the run, and a stressed-out mommy leading to a stressed-out husband and kiddos. Is it really worth it? While I do not need to be idle, I do need to make sure that I am looking well to my household and the bulk of my energy is going to care for my family. If I am stretched too thin to give them the time and attention that they need, then I am stretched too thin, period.
Proverbs 31:28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
Children have a natural desire to look up to and praise their parents. From the time they are little, we hear things like, “You are the best mommy ever!” (generally after they have received a special treat). These moments are what keep a mother going. Every little hug, kiss, thank-you, weed bouquet, messy kitchen from a child wanting to, “help”, and homemade hand print or scribbled card is a reward in the best job on earth. When your child chooses worship over a worldly activity without your guidance, that is your reward! When you see their hearts maturing in their love for the Lord and their desire to serve others blossoming, that is your reward! When you see them becoming godly husbands and wives, mothers and fathers due to your example and influence, that is your reward! Just as we praise God Almighty with the lives that we lead, our children’s lives are a testament to the love, direction, and faith that we provide.
Proverbs 31:29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
I can imagine no higher praise than to hear this from my husband. In order to do that, my focus must be on my family. I also must keep in mind that all men are different. The specifics of what my husband needs/wants from me will be different from my dad, my brother, or my friend’s husband needs/ wants from his wife. I must make sure that I am being the wife that my husband needs me to be. Some men don’t mind a cluttered house, but need a wife who fixes her hair and tries to look nice for him. Some men don’t necessarily care about fixed hair or make-up, but would be disappointed or hurt if the bed wasn’t made in the morning. What specifically does your husband need from you in order to feel loved and important? We can waste a lot of energy and stress trying to be our version of an ideal wife if the things we see as important are not the same as what’s important to our husband.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised
A true woman of God is focused more on her inner beauty than her external appearance. We have all known women who are comely in appearance, until they open their mouth. Others appear unattractive until you truly SEE who they are and what they do, and then they are beautiful! Our beauty must radiate from the inside out. This is the kind which grows brighter with every passing year.
What are the, “works” referred to here? I don’t think they are talking about what beautiful garments and sashes she makes, I believe the, “works” in this passage are her Godly family, and her kindness and service to all those she encounters.
This verse is the perfect summation of the previous passage. If we, as wives and mothers, focus first and foremost on the well-being of our family, we will be a success in the two most important jobs we as women have on this earth. It is our primary job to ensure the physical, emotional, and especially spiritual well-being of those God has entrusted us to care for. If we have physical beauty, a secular job that we love, and the respect and admiration of those in our community, we have nothing if it has come at the expense of our godliness or our family. True success is found in the works that will continue to praise us in eternity and the fruit of children who live a lifetime of service to God.