“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NIV)
I have to admit this verse and I have had a troubled relationship. Not so much for the verse itself, but really for the company this verse keeps. This verse is part of the Epilogue “A Wife of Noble Character” found in the 31st chapter of the book of Proverbs. My relationship with this verse began when I was 19 years old and studying at Bible College. My mother, a really wonderful woman and feisty as all get out, sent me a letter and at the bottom she included this verse. It expressed her hope for me and the woman I was becoming. But, busy dating and being on my own for the first time, I loved the letter but this verse got shoved to the back burner.
It was around the time that I married my husband, at the ripe old age of 21, that I started to examine what this verse meant. It was prompted by the fact that, despite my lifelong determination not to, I had married a man going into full-time ministry and was thus becoming a “Pastor’s Wife”. I had been in the church all my life, loved and still do love the church but did not ever want to be a Pastor’s Wife. I wanted my own life and ministry direction, thank you very much. But, as we headed through our schooling, my husband training as a Youth Pastor and me to study Old Testament at Seminary, I encountered this passage from Proverbs again.
I was daunted, I have to admit. How could I possibly live up to this standard of womanly perfection? How was I go be a woman who was praiseworthy in God’s eyes if I couldn’t meet the criteria he set out for women? I thought it couldn’t be done. So, what was I going to do with the fact that this seemingly impossible standard had been set out in the Bible for women to attain? Well, I could get angry and frustrated, which I did, and resentful of anyone who preached how women were to use this as our guide for life and family. But, I realized that the God who loves me, gifted me, and created me would not set me something that I could not attain because there just weren’t enough hours in the day. What to do? What to think?
So, that is what has prompted this journey and this blog. I read this passage and I realize that I shouldn’t feel unworthy because of this woman, I should feel inspired. I know she’s written to look perfect, that’s the point. But I think what we’re to get out of this passage are the attributes that make her a woman in whom God delights. I don’t need to be the businesswoman/housekeeper/wife/mother/mistress of slaves extraordinaire, but what I need to get from this passage are the elements that touch on my life. I don’t need to be everything this woman is presented as being but where my life intersects with hers, in family, in work, in worship, I need to see God in those areas of my life.
This passage is showing us a woman who is seeking God in all areas of her life. That is the kind of woman I want to be. I won’t be perfect, but I don’t think she was either. When I read between the lines I see a woman who may have resented having to get up early in the morning to get breakfast after being up with a baby all night. A woman whose hands were tired, whose body was sore, and who had not yet reached lunchtime. But, she was seeking God in every area. I want to be a Woman like her, a woman who fears the Lord. A woman fiercely and fearfully living in pursuit of God.