The Mighty Wife, Part Five

From Proverbs 31:10-31

Let’s review:

  1. Woman who fears the Lord, you’re awesome! (BIG fan. HUGE.)
  2. Woman who fears the Lord, you’re a force to be reckoned with!
  3. Woman who fears the Lord, you fear the Lord – that’s why you’re WORTH it.
  4. Woman who fears the Lord, God sees all the millions of “little” things you do! (And He thinks it’s pretty big of you…) Like this:
    1. Clothing your loved ones appropriately for the weather
    2. Grocery shopping
    3. Getting your loves ones out the door ready for the day
    4. Working
    5. Doing your job well
    6. Getting good deals
    7. Paying the bills
    8. Having and using your skills faithfully
    9. Sharing
    10. Making your loved ones wear their coats
    11. Making your home comfortable
    12. Dressing appropriately for the weather
    13. Supporting your husband(/employer)
    14. Contributing to the economy
    15. Trusting God
    16. Teaching kids wisdom and truth
    17. Working super hard to take care of yourself and others

We’ve discussed a little about where all this comes from, and at the risk of irritating those who don’t like to be told a thousand times, I’ll say it again: This comes from her relationship with the Lord.

How so? How does a relationship with the Lord end up looking a lot like working really hard for other people? And is that what we really want? Wait a second…it’s a TRAP!

Goodness gracious no, it’s not a trap. It’s called love. Or, more accurately, being loved.

Yes. I said that right.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

This woman has a secret: it is not what she does, but what is done to her. Someone loves her. She is secure in that love.

Her needs are met.

What would you do if your needs were met?

No, no. No, no. Back up. Read it again. And think for a while. Answer the question. What if your needs – for attention, affection, security, and appreciation – were all met, for good? What if you had nothing more to worry about – what if you were completely satisfied? What would you do then?

Well, when you’ve had enough attention, you can stop performing. When you’ve had enough affection, you can stop pandering. When you’ve had enough appreciation, you can stop perfecting. And when you’ve had enough security (food, shelter, love, that sort of thing), you can stop worrying.

So, then, what would be left?

If you had nothing more to do for you, what would you do?

Think about it for a while. Doesn’t it make you feel free?

Look at what God says He wants for us:

“The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3a

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19

“I am the good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for My sheep.” John 10:14-15

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1

This is the woman’s secret! Her needs are met. She has given them over to God, her Shepherd, and she is free! She no longer has to do anything; so what’s left? Well, whatever she so chooses.

So what does she choose?

She chooses to love, as she has been loved, because when you don’t have to do anything, there is nothing better to do in the world.

God has spent His life for her, and she chooses to spend hers for others.

Here’s the thing: She’s not doing it because she wants God to do something for her; that would be the need for security, which God has already met (“I lack nothing.”) She’s not doing it because she wants other people to notice, to see her; that would be that need for attention, which God has already met (“I know my sheep…”). She’s not doing it because she wants her family to depend on her, to need her, and so in some twisted, self-loving way, to love her; that would be the need for affection, which God has already met (“how wide and long and high and deep…”). And she’s not doing it because she feels obligated by the gift God has given her or like she owes Him or He won’t love her anymore; that would be that need to feel appreciated, to feel worth something, which God has already met – by going so far as to send His Son for her, because she’s worth that much to Him.

She is doing it all with no strings attached.

Proverbs 31 is a poem – a song – an exultation – about a woman who is free. She is the most beautiful, powerful thing in all the world – rarer, and more valuable, than many, many rubies.

She is you, my love. She is you in Christ.

“31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

The Mighty Wife, Part Four

the-mighty-wife-part-4

From Proverbs 31:10-31

Okay, let’s sum up The Mighty Wife so far:

  1. Woman who fears the Lord, good job! Your family (employer/whoever you work hard for) is lucky to have you! <standing ovation from husband and/or children and/or whoever else should> (Proverbs 31:10-12, 28-31)
  2. Woman who fears the Lord, thou art STRONG! (Roar!) (Proverbs 31:10)
  3. Woman who fears the Lord, you are valuable for Whom you have believed. (Proverbs 31:30)

So, we’ve done a pretty good job looking at the beginning and the end of this passage, yeah? All right. Now the middle. <gulp>

Before we dig into what this woman does, let’s remind ourselves quickly WHY she does it. All that this woman does comes from what she believes. What does she believe? Well, actually, the better question is Who. She believes God. She fears Him. She puts her trust in Him. She relies on Him, as it says in Isaiah 50:10:

“Who is among you that fears the Lord,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

So in all these things that you read, remember from where she draws her strength. She does not have to rely on herself for any of this; she does not have to somehow produce it from her own human heart. This comes from her reliance on God, from her faith and trust in Him. Let’s take a closer look to see how, exactly, this reliance on God influences every tiny detail of her life, because when we look closely, we’ll see that THAT is what this passage is about.

But wait. We’re not quite there yet. First things first.

Now, when we read this, it’s going to sound a bit like this woman is a wax display at a pioneer museum, so I think it will be helpful to translate bits here and there into our modern day so we understand (I’ve summed them all up briefly; if you’d like further explanations, see the P.S.s at the very end). Because the first thing she does is this (huh, what?):

“13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.”

And it just means she goes shopping and buys her family clothes for all seasons.

(See P.S. #1)
“14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.”

She goes grocery shopping.

(See P.S. #2)

So let’s sum up so far: she goes grocery shopping and clothes shopping so her family can be fed and clothed. Funny, she sounds like a mom.
“15 She gets up while it is still night;”

<groan> WHY, woman, WHY? <p.s. see below>
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.

She gets up early to make sure everyone’s got something to eat for breakfast before the activities of the day begin. Hmm. She sounds…like…a mom.

(see P.S. #3)
“16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

Whoa, nelly, wait a minute. Her earnings? You mean this woman WORKS? <gasp!> That is SO unbiblical. She is so far ahead of her time! <note the sarcasm>

Yes. She does work. She works, and then she invests her profit. This woman is a business woman.
“17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.”

Look at her WORKING! This woman doesn’t just work, she WORKS. Know what I mean? She is GOOD at her job. And she’s strong!

“18 She sees that her trading is profitable,”

She gets good prices.
“and her lamp does not go out at night.”

Because she pays the electric bill on time.

(See P.S. #4)
“19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

She has skills. She uses them.
“20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.”

She shares.
“21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

Her kids have coats. Good ones.
“22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

She makes her home comfortable. She wears clothing appropriate for the weather.

“23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

Everyone’s like, “Whoa, tell us your secrets, man!” because they think her husband is awesome. Really, he’s just a guy who doesn’t have to worry about extra stuff and can focus on what he’s doing because his wife is awesome. (And he’s probably pretty awesome, too. I mean, she did marry him. And there are some pretty awesome men in the world. I married one, too.)
“24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.”

She markets her skills. The economy flourishes.
“25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.”

She trusts God.
“26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

She raises her kids. She teaches them what they need to know. Mostly, to fear God. And to brush their teeth.
“27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

She works. She pays bills. She keeps her family fed and clothed. She shares. She raises her kids to fear the Lord. And that’s a STINKIN’ lot of work, people! (Can I get an “AMEN!”?) (P.S. Nowhere does it say she does all this in a day, by the way. This is the summary of a lifestyle, lived out over the course of a lifetime. Remember that.)

That’s why it ends the way it does:

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

In other words: WOW, what a woman!

And you know what the best part is? I actually know A LOT of women like this.  ❤

Now let’s take a few steps back and remember where all this awesomeness comes from, yes? Great. Next post.

To be continued…

 

P.S. #1  Wool and flax were the two primary raw ingredients for fabrics of the day – wool for cold weather, flax (for linen) for hot. So when it says “she selects wool and flax,” darlings, it means she goes shopping.

Umm, this woman is praised for how great she is at shopping. Yep. (Put down those credit cards, ladies. Let’s not get TOO excited.)

But also, it means her family is clothed. Because she shops. (Now, she had to make the clothes herself, too – these days it’s actually more expensive to do that sometimes!) But the point is, clothes. Her family has clothes. Kind of important.

P.S. #2 In other words, she looks far and wide for the best food for her family. She includes variety in their diet, bringing her food “from afar.” Like oranges from Texas. Or blueberries from Maine. Avocados from Mexico. That sort of thing.

P.S. #3 Oh, and she has servants. Just saying. (Today we might call them employees, but same same – they are people. Who do work. For her.) (What are you waiting for, woman? Break out those chore charts and feel no guilt!)

P.S. #4   About that “lamp doesn’t go out at night” thing:

Okay, now, listen. This one. This one I have heard  people say means she stays up all night. Not only is that not possible, it is not healthy, and it is not productive, two things this woman clearly is. And it fails to consider history.

We’ll look to the very same book, the Bible, to explain this one to us: think about the parable of the 10 virgins. These were young women invited to a wedding. They had brought oil lamps and were sitting outside a gate waiting for the bridegroom to come; some of them brought extra oil in case he was a long time coming, and some of them did not. ALL of them fell asleep. When they woke up, those who brought extra oil found their lamps still burning, trimmed them, and went in with the bridegroom. Those who had not had to go to town to buy more, missed the bridegroom, and were not allowed in. What light does this shed (hehe) on the Proverbs 31 woman?

This may seem obvious, but in those days, there was no electricity. SO, if for any reason you had to get up in the middle of the night (bathroom break, baby crying, late night medical emergency, visitor who arrives a little later than expected, etc.), you could not just flip and switch and voila! Let there be light.

Nope. SO, you had to keep a lamp close by so you could grab it and take it with you. The thing is it is REALLY, REALLY hard to light one of those in the pitch black dark. SO, what you did instead was keep it burning low all night long, and then when you woke up, you turned it up. (Or something like that – my grasp of exactly how oil lamps work is…tenuous.)

Now, I do know that in those days, the lamps ran on oil. So you had to make sure you had enough oil to get through any situation you might have at night. (Hence the virgins.)

In modern words, you had to make sure when you flipped the switch, something would happen. Or, to put it plainly, you had to pay the electric bill.

Yep. “Good job, woman! You pay the electric bill! You are so prepared!”

The Mighty Wife, Part Three

The Mighty Wife Part 3.jpg

Let’s continue on reading this passage with our new perspective of praise. “She is worth far more than rubies,” verse 10 continues. Let me ask you this: from where, exactly, does this woman’s value come? From where, exactly, does all women’s value come?

I can see your Bible-educated, culture-educated, and self-educated wheels churning out the expected answers like a factory line of machines. But stop – I want you to seriously, deeply consider this question. This is not a touchy-feely-make-sure-you-feel-good-about-yourself question like we’ve been led to believe, ladies. This is important. This is enormous. Do you know that the way you truly answer this question – the deepest held conviction of your heart about this particular truth – is written all over your life from top to bottom? From where does YOUR value come?

If you want to know the real answer, look at how you spend your time, what you choose to grow and cultivate in your own soul – what you are trying to be. It usually takes me all of five minutes with you to know where you think your value comes from.

And I cannot express to you how grieved I am at the lies women believe about this.

Because at the top of the list – pounded by the media, embedded in human cultures all throughout the world, what I believe to be the devil’s most effective weapon for the oppression of women everywhere – is that a woman’s worth comes from her sex appeal.

Let me get something straight: I am not some sort of Victorian prude. I am not pressing for the removal of sex from our lives, or insinuating that I feel that women are not sexual creatures, too. And I like to look good, and I like turning my husband’s head, and I don’t find anything wrong in making an effort to do so. But it is a favorite pastime of this world to deprive from women the right to be anything else but a mindless, soulless toy for men. And women – you are so much more. The good men know that.

But look around you next time you’re at the mall, or the movie theater, or the beach. Tell me if anything – anything – else a woman can be is praised so highly as this one thing, sexy.

In pursuit of this one kind of value, millions of women neglect to become anything else – and beauty is fleeting! If you want to know how many women derive their value from beauty in this country, visit a hair stylist and ask her how many of her customers chose not to cover up their gray.

And here’s another thing: women work so much harder than they need to. Ladies, seriously, you have no idea how easy it is to turn a man’s head. SERIOUSLY. Lighten up, you look gorgeous! Stop wasting your time working on something that’s already done.

Sub-truth #1: Woman, you are beautiful, and so much more.

But that is not where your value comes from.

Then where?

Despite culture’s best attempts, there are still plenty of gorgeous, strong women who do not accept this view of themselves as a sex object and nothing more. For a long time, I have been one of them. But finding our value in beauty is not the only trap women face; our world has many more traps for those who escape the first. Charm, or that winsome personality. Physical strength. A successful career. Creating beautiful things. Taking good care of husbands and children. Having friends. Being popular. Even cooking well. Women value themselves for all kinds of different things. For me, it is intelligence, and ‘success’ as the world defines it, prestige. The desire to prove myself smarter than others is one that is being quite patiently and diligently removed by God a little more every day – and let me tell you, it is wedged in there tight. See, for years, almost my whole life, I have valued myself based on my intelligence, because I’m pretty smart, or so the tests say, and so it is quite a paradigm shift to see that God does not view human ‘intelligence’ as such a valuable thing. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom. 1:22) He says, and “the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 1 Cor. 1:19 That’s about what He thinks of human ‘intelligence.’ What I have valued myself for my whole life – spent myself on at times – is just as futile and probably three times as dangerous as beauty for looking “safe.”

Now, this woman in Proverbs is praised for being wise, strong, and kind, and she is a very capable, very successful woman. She has a head full of brains and shoes full of feet, as Dr. Seuss would say. But that is not where her value comes from.

Her success does not arise from her intelligence, but her diligence. Her diligence arises from her character. And her character? Her character was formed on one premise alone: “A woman who fears the Lord.

That is what makes her mighty.

So what does it mean, then, to fear the Lord?

It’s a phrase thrown around frequently in the Old Testament, and makes a particular show of force in Proverbs, which begins with the assertion that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” (Proverbs 1:7) preceded by a father’s urgent plea to his son to seek after wisdom and knowledge above all else. Clearly this thing is important.

I had a Bible teacher once tell me that “it’s not really fear as much as respect,” with which I will respectfully disagree. The more I learn about God, the more He terrifies me. Not in the way that makes me run from Him, but run to Him, because only through Him do I have any chance at all!

Think of this: Do you not realize, broken, faulty soul, that He is perfect? Do you not realize that He does not live in contradiction to Himself – that He is perfectly consistent even to His deepest parts, the depths of Him no one else can understand? Do you not realize that in this perfection, in this consistency,He perfectly and consistently loves every soul you have ever harmed (and you have harmed souls, whether you intended to or not), and He will not stand for your crime, but will have justice for them all? Think of a person who has deeply hurt someone you love – and does not the same love in you that God has for them burn in anger?

Do you not realize He knows every way to cause you pain, the way you have done to others? Do you not realize He has the ability to dismantle the atoms of your body, and the building blocks of your soul as well? Every person you have ever harmed, intentionally or not, He loves. He has spoken you into existence, and He can speak you out of it.

Hebrews 10:30-31 puts it (much better) this way: “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I WILL repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

And do you not realize that the only thing that keeps Him from doing so – is Himself?

Because after all you have done, His love for you is great enough to offer you redemption by the blood of one who never sinned, His own Son. This is the God you say you believe is real, and my dears, He is – He is terribly real. Oh, yes, fear Him! Then, and then alone, will you begin to really know the truth. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”

That is what the fear of the Lord means – as Jonathon Edwards put it, that we are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” and without His Son, we are hopeless.

But we are not hopeless – so long as our hope is in Him.

That is what the woman in Proverbs 31 knows to be true. That is what makes this Proverbs 31 woman who she is. She fears God – and because she fears Him, she seeks Him, because her hope is in Him, not in herself. Everything she does – everything for which she is praised in this passage – it’s all just the evidence. It is the outward trail of an inward journey into the heart of God. It’s only the runoff of an overflowing heart. Her life is the overflow of her faith.

And the funny thing is, this is the one thing about ourselves we tend to neglect the most. Not just women, of course, but people; there are too, too many people in this world who do not know what they believe, or who.

Now, women of God, you who believe Him – that is why you deserve praise.

Let everything else fall away. Everything you run after – Your beauty. Your success. Your clean house and well-behaved children. Your dreamy marriage. Your perfect hair. Let it all fall away.

Let your value rest on whom you have believed, and you will have begun to be this Proverbs 31 woman.

It’s that much easier to be her than you could have ever dreamed.

Oh – and, er, well – that much harder. But that’s a post for a different day.

Truth #2: Woman, your value comes from what you seek – or more accurately, Whom you seek.

 

The Mighty Wife, Part Two

The Mighty Wife Part 2

The Mighty Wife

From Proverbs 31:10-31

<cue woefully inadequate Julie Andrews imitation> “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

First of all, let’s clarify something: according to every teacher who’s ever endeavored to teach me this delightful passage, and according to the words and heading of the Bible translation I possess, this passage is about “The Wife of Noble Character.”

So, what the heck does that mean?

Here’s something fascinating that I just learned that nobody’s ever told me before: the Hebrew word translated “noble character” here, hayil? It means mighty. Like, as in, it is most often used in reference to military might. It is related to the word heyl, which literally means military fortification, or army. Hayil means: “Might, strength, power; able, valiant, virtuous; army host, forces; riches, substance, wealth. Primarily signifies military might.” (From my Key Word Study Bible)

Why do I find this so fascinating? Well, my background is in English literature. One of the things you’re taught when you are taught to analyze English literature is that there is a difference between a word’s denotation (what the dictionary says it means) and it’s connotation (what it implies, or, actually means).

This word for “noble character” is used to connote all things mighty.

This passage is not about the “noble” wife who stares down her nose at people and wears fancy schmancy gowns bought by the blood, sweat, and tears of the servants she oppresses (which, by the way, is not what “noble” originally meant, either, hence the translator’s choice of words. Perfect example of denotation vs. connotation). This woman is not some holier version of Cinderella’s stepmother, folks, “noble woman” though she may have been called.

Neither is she some pushover, weak-willed, soft-gripped woman, either, which is how noble has often come to be used today.

No, no. This passage, my dears, is about the Mighty Wife. <cue bicep flex>

A couple years ago, one of my cousin’s wives said something to me that I found profoundly life changing. I was admiring her ability to carry a toddler on her back and a baby on her front walking uphill in the blistering heat (might as well have been both ways), and she just shrugged and said, “Women are strong,” as if everybody knew that.

But, wait – do we know that?

Men are strong. Right? Well, of course they are. Physiologically speaking, men are stronger than women, just because. I mean, their testosterone levels make them literally grow muscles in their sleep. <cue Fezzik voice> “It’s not my fault that I’m the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.” Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Granted, men are stronger than women. In our minds, though, which are taught to think in opposites, that naturally makes women weak. My dears, men may be stronger – but women are still strong. You are strong. Remember that. This Proverbs 31 chick? She’s a beast – the most beautiful kind. The passage specifically praises her strength – more than once!

So here’s a lie that our culture (not our Bible!) has taught us: The Bible says women are weak. <cue objections> Yes, yes, yes, it does say women are the “weaker vessel.” Emphasis on the er. Remember how stronger didn’t mean not strong? Well guess what. Weaker, fellas, weaker. We, none of us, are strong vessels without Christ. But I digress.

The Bible, God’s living and active Word, Proverbs 31, says women are STRONG.

Time and time again, my own observations confirm this truth. And I don’t just mean physically, although women have tremendous potential to be physically strong and many of us are, but strong in personality, strong in conviction, strong in adversity, strong in integrity, strong in love. The first verse of this infamous passage, verse 10, calls this woman a “wife of <mighty> character,” (added emphasis etc.). I don’t think I’m the only one who can look around and see women who fit this bill.

Truth #1: Woman who fears the Lord, thou art strong.

The Mighty Wife, Part One

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From Proverbs 31:10-31

The Mighty Wife, Part 1

<Groan> Here. We go. Again. ANOTHER exhortation from Proverbs 31. Prepare heads for sound thumping!

Ladies, raise your hand if you have ever felt this way about this particular passage of Scripture. <raises both hands>

All right, I may err on the dramatic side. But seriously, though, I have heard SO many sermons and read SO many articles and SO many books and even gone to SO MANY classes about this FREAKING PROVERBS 31…woman, I was going to say woman. <Ahem>. And every time I do I get about. Six. Inches. Smaller. <Thump> <Thump> <Thump>

Here’s the thing that gets me: that’s not what it’s for. I mean the Word of God – that’s not what it’s for!

Yes, God’s Word is “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16), but not so we can feel fit for nothing but the trash pile before God’s hardly even begun His great work in us! (See God’s Trash, Part 1). No, no. What does that verse say? “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17)

So, before we even talk about what Proverbs 31 says, let’s talk about what it’s for. What is this passage – what is any of Scripture – for? According to Timothy, it’s for equipping. Well, what does that mean?

Militarily, it means not sending your troops out to meet gunfire with pitchforks.

Astronautically, it means not sending your astronaut to walk on the moon in a swimsuit.

Antarctically, it means you stinkin’ BUNDLE UP.

My dear, Scripture is God putting the tools in your hands for the job you have to do. He’s not sending you out to life to meet defeat, all right? (Sidenote: We’re talking about His plan, not yours…big difference sometimes. HUGE. More on that some other time.) He’s not throwing you – you who trust Him alone to save you – to the sharks so He can watch them tear you apart for the fun of it. That’s NOT God. God does not desire your defeat in the tasks He’s given you. Enjoy that truth.

God’s Words are for building us up, strengthening us, making us feel His love for us, feel His strength and His joy and His power by which we “soar on wings like eagles!” (Isaiah 40:31) And yes, sometimes His words tell us we’ve done it wrong (again) and that hurts – but it should hurt in the growing kind of way, not the shrinking.

Because ultimately, God’s Word is a tool – God’s tool – for building. Building us, to be specific – building us up into all He has planned for us to be: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

Now you see why it gets me when I’m taught about a passage of Scripture in a way that makes me feel defeated. And not just defeated in one small way – defeated as a woman, as the very essence of who – of what – I am. No, no, no! That is NOT what it’s for.

Well, then, what is Proverbs 31 for?

My husband told me something very interesting a while back, which I have been steeping in my mind ever since; he told me that he’d discussed this passage with a Jewish rabbi, who told him that in Jewish teaching, this passage is not considered a “thou shalt” list for women, but rather considered an exhortation to husbands to praise their wives. <psh> Where on earth did they get THAT idea?

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:30-31.

OH.

So in other words, “Hey husbands! Appreciate your wives! Tell her you love her and think she’s just dandy!”

So, ladies, you know all those things you’ve done for others that you thought no one saw because no one ever bothered to say thank you? All the underwear you washed and nasty refrigerators you cleaned out and invisible ‘ow’ies you kissed and toys you picked up – several times a day – and healthy dinners you carefully made that EVERYONE complained about and all this even though you’ve got other stuff you could do with your time?

You know how no one ever seems to see what you do?

God saw.

In Proverbs 31, He says thank you. He even nudges your husband and kids, too, and is like, “Hey, say thank you to your amazing wife and mom ‘cuz she DESERVES it.”

WHOA NELLY, that BUILDS. ME. UP.

Go ahead and read the passage again in the light of someone telling a woman how amazing she is. Does that change it for you? Good. Now we have somewhere to start.