I can still remember the first time I read Proverbs, Chapter 31. I was in college, sitting in my apartment at Auburn University in Montgomery, just home from the weekly Bible study at the Baptist Student Union where a group of older males had chosen this passage to formulate a lesson to a group of about 10 college freshmen ladies. The whole study was a little weird, as those poor guys tried so hard to communicate with girls whose "deer in the headlight" stares must have been unsettling to face. We had no comments, no questions, no rebuttals, but no agreements either. To be honest, it was pretty overwhelming to think that THAT was the woman God intended us ALL to be. At that point in my life, I didn't have any responsibilities outside of getting myself to work or to class, and I already thought the Proverbs 31 Woman was unrealistic. I thought that the probable reason the lesson was even taught was because men want make all girls into a Proverbs 31 Woman ... because she does sound like a wonderful wife, right!?! Sure she does, and that chapter makes ME want a wife like her - but it didn't make me want to BE her.
But something (well now I know that "something" was the Holy Spirit) moved me to read and re-read the entire chapter after I got home. I mean, I heard the words come from the guys' mouths, and I heard their thoughts, but I thought surely they had interpreted it wrong. I couldn't put my finger on a chapter that described what a man should emulate; not nearly to that detail anyway. Unfortunately, I let my bias, my skepticism, and my cynicism skew the way I let those words sink into my heart that night. Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth would agree that I bought into a LIE that was probably aimed directly at my pride and my self-prioritization. I hate to admit it but that lie remained hooked in for years - and it just recently came out.
In 2010, we had just moved to Alaska and I found myself at home with a 1-yr old, a 2-yr old, and a husband who seemingly only came home from work to shower, nap,and go back to work. It was a dark, cold, lonely time for me and for almost a year I sunk into a stinky grave of self-pity. I'll never know exactly why or how I came around, but one day it dawned on me that sitting home and pouting, was not going to do anything good for anyone in my family. I knew that I needed to find a church family, so I headed out into Delta Junction searching for the right church. After visiting every single church, a couple of times, I found one that kept the Word of God in my mind all week long; the church that I felt comfortable leaving my small kids alone in a class of their own; the church that had ladies I could relate to; and most importantly a pastor who preached from the Bible (without so much of the "personal or political opinions" that some sermons have). Since Will was constantly working, I skipped the general Sunday School class (what I thought was for couples) and I chose the Ladies Sunday School class instead. I felt like I needed a mentor to help me get through this time in my life (young kids, husband always gone, away from all of my family, depression of not getting "my way", etc.), and I chose the right class! What I got was a room full of women whose Faith was such an inspiration. On our second visit to First Baptist of Delta, the Sunday School lesson included Proverbs 31 as an example for us to follow, as wives, mothers, and Christian women in general. By this time in my life, I was more humble towards God's guidance for me and I realized that I could not do all this by myself -- so that day I actually LISTENED, and didn't scoff at the ridiculousness of being "The Perfect" woman. That class motivated me to read and re-read Proverbs 31 (again!), but this time with a humbled heart that was searching for God's answer to "How can I become this woman", instead of me rebuking God's guidance to become this woman.
What God did with me, beginning with that class, and later through all of the amazing women who mentored me through this church, was nothing short of amazing -- it was miraculous!! What He showed me was two things: (1) we don't miraculously wake up one day and know God's will for us - we have to search for it, prepare our hearts to hear it, and decide that when we do hear it, we will act on what He is nudging is towards; (2) the Proverbs 31 Woman IS in fact a PERFECT woman but He isn't telling us that we are less loved by Him if we do not fully measure up to her -- He is merely giving us a guide to go by. I once heard a woman complain that The Proverbs 31 Woman is unattainable and "a ridiculous, mythical measure that makes women feel insecure and unworthy", but I believe that is a LIE that our enemy would love for us to fall for!! God would never do that to us, so I know with all of my heart that He included that to help give us something to strive for - not something to beat ourselves down over.
I recently came across a blog by Stephen Altrogge who answered the question of his, Do I Want My Wife to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman? Sorta and I so appreciated his thoughts. He says his wife felt burdened by, and under the cloud of the pressure to be this woman, but the words that he consoled her with, brought me to tears. All those years of believing the LIE that I am less of a "good" Christian woman because I didn't emulate her, was shattered for me in 2011, and last week it was reinforced by Stephen's words to his wife. He basically tells her that this is more of a checklist that can be used to "encourage and praise women", and he cautions other men (and everyone, really) to not let themselves fall for the LIE that this chapter was written for the purpose of being a "diagnostic godliness checklist". My favorite quote from his blog is this ... "Proverbs 31 are principles to be pursued, NOT practices to be prescribed." If you believe God loves you, then there is no way you can ever believe the LIE that Proverbs 31 was meant for anything else but to encourage and guide you on your way to becoming the woman God created you to be!!
In my Proverbs 31 Woman -- Part 2, I want to explain why it's not so hard to be her. Later, in Parts 3-? I will break down these qualities and discuss what they mean to women in our world today. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, so please share this post so that more and more women can join in the comments!
If you would like to read more insight by Stephen Altrogge, his blog is called "The Blazing Center".