Today, for lack of a bible study at the moment, I decided to dive back into my favorite passage in the Bible: Proverbs 31. As a woman and a wife, I love having a passage that basically lays down the ground rules. Even more, I love how it morphs and grows every time I read it. There is always something new to learn from it! Since many of my posts have been anxious or angry lately, I thought I’d share something a little more upbeat today.
The passage starts in verse 10. The NIV Easy-To-Read version (my husband’s) says, “How hard it is to find the perfect wife. She is worth far more than jewels.” Before, I always assumed that it meant literally perfect. Like, the 50’s wives with their cute little dresses, pouty red lips, and bright smile as they vacuumed. Or, the image I had of my own mother: balancing a million things at once, being a stay-at-home mom, and always having a spotless house. That was and will always be unattainable. Perfection cannot be grasped by us here on earth, and it seemed so unfair that it was one of the requirements to being that Proverbs 31 woman.
The passage, though, notes that “the perfect wife” can be translated “a noble woman.” So what is a noble woman? Webster-Mirriam Dictionary defines noble as something or someone “of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” The passage isn’t calling for a perfect woman. It’s calling for a noble one! Not, “who can be the perfect wife?” but “who can be a woman of excellent moral character?” After all, the writer knows that no one is perfect. How arrogant of me to think he was asking me to be perfect. The rarity of finding a noble woman, a woman with this moral excellence,” is what makes her “worth far more than jewels.”
Verse 11-12 in the Easy-to-Read version (EtR) were a little more confusing. I decided to open up the wonderful BibleGateway, and the comparisons were really neat!
EtR – “Her husband depends on her. He will never be poor. She does good for her husband all her life. She never causes him trouble.”
NIV – “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
NKJV – “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
The Message – “Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.”
Originally, I read the verses to literally mean “she helps him make money, and she doesn’t make any trouble.” Sounded good to me, but it seemed a little flat. After all, what about the women who are stay-at-home moms, or who are not able to work because of injury, illness, or something else? Are they then not noble women? Are they making their husbands poorer?
The other translations, however, opened up an entirely new realm of this “depending.” It isn’t just in the surface level financial trust. His poverty isn’t in the bank. It’s in their relationship. He has “full confidence.” His heart “safely trusts her.” He “trusts her without reserve.” Her worthiness of his trust brings him “no lack of gain.” He “never has reason to regret it.“ How beautiful is that! How many of us can look at our relationship with our husband and honestly say that he has no reason to regret giving us his heart? I know I can think of so many times I did not honor his trust, whether it was something simple or something huge. Think about it: when my husband says I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and I brush it off with a “you have to say that” comment, I am crushing his affection, saying he doesn’t count as a man to determine beauty. Simple. When I withhold my body from him, denying that sexual aspect of his being because I’m angry/resentful/hurt/apathetic/whatever, his trust that I will nurture him is damaged. (And yes, ladies, our husbands need that just as we need relationship.) And the biggy: when I look to the appreciation of the men around me, outside of my husband, it opens the door to resentment, fear, and hurt. And that one is the big one for me, because I have incredibly low self-esteem. While I am appreciating and acknowledging my husband’s compliments and genuine attraction more than ever, I still find myself wanting to go out and be the “trophy wife” on his arm. I crave the glances, the attention of other men to feel better about myself. Not because I’m looking to go to them, and not because I want to be a tease. Purely out of unconscious need to feel like someone wants me or thinks I’m pretty. That “need” devalues my husband.
The EtR verse 12, “she never causes him trouble,” especially stuck out to me. While I am purposely trying to moderate my tendencies to seek outside approval (cursed people-pleasing self….), I am discovering a new vice: gossip. And lord oh lord, does it bring my poor husband trouble. The verse actually made me laugh out loud. I am far from a noble woman for my hubby. My mouth likes to run away, leaving icky feelings, foot-in-mouth moments, and bruised relationships in its wake. Poor husband either has to listen to my blather or has to try to piece together what my carelessness broke.
Verse 13, however, was my favorite of the bunch today.
EtR – “She is always gathering wool and flax and enjoys making things with her hands.”
NIV – “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”
NKJV – “She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands.”
TM – “She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.”
What? Are we supposed to all sit in rocking chairs and knit all day? Or should we be crafty, scouring Pinterest for the next neat thing to make with the kids or to use around the house? No.
The verses show a deeper meaning to this idea of working. This noble woman is “always gathering,” “selecting” with care, “seeking” and shopping “for the best yarns and cottons.” She is selective in what she chooses and makes sure to get the best things for her chosen career as what appears to be a seamstress. And, she takes pride in what she makes. She willingly works with her hands, enjoying what she does. So then, do I have the same outlook as she? Do I take pride in my chosen career? Do I choose the best materials? Do I take joy in the activity? I was unsurprised to discover that I don’t. In a culture where women are often pressured to join the workforce, my decision and passion to stay home with kids and take care of my household has left me feeling second-rate. I have a passion for being a housewife and mother, but I don’t take pride in my children, my husband, or my home. I am definitely not living in excellence. And that goes for any career. Do you take pride and have joy in your chosen path? If you’re a nurse, do you welcome the sunrise each day, thrilled to work with patients and co-workers? If you’re a teacher, do you eagerly grade papers, knowing the impact you’re making every day in a child’s life? If you’re a bank teller, do you give your best effort behind that counter? Whatever your job, do you value it like this? And I do mean temporary jobs as well, since sometimes we cannot do or have not discovered our “dream job” just yet. For those of us who have found what our passion is, though, do we chase after it and do it to our best ability?
I’m only four verses into this passage, and I’ve already been massively convicted. Am I striving to be a noble woman, one with a strong moral character and the desire to live with excellence? Am I protecting and nurturing my husband’s heart, so that he has a safe place to come to? Am I bringing him good things, or am I living recklessly and bringing him pain? And am I living my passion as if it’s second-rate, or am I living it passionately, proudly, and eagerly?
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s verses bring.