Disclaimer: this blog is not a thinly-veiled method of outing my poor husband. My poor husband is very supportive. (Mostly because he knows better than to not be …?) I asked him the other day if he knew, when he married me, how high-maintenance I was going to be. He laughed for two whole minutes, then reminisced about watching me fret in line at Macdonalds and in the aisles of the video library …
It occurs to me that many Christian women long to be the Ideal Proverbs 31 Supermodel. I’m starting to think perhaps it’s time we stopped looking at ourselves only in isolation. We’re responsible for who we are before God, sure; but we don’t live alone, uninfluenced or unencumbered, so it doesn’t make sense to neglect the whole picture.
Proverbs 31 was written by a man quoting his mother. That means that its central concepts were generated by a woman. She wanted her son to know what sort of woman to look for; I’m thinking she was also dropping subtle clues as to how to partner with such a woman – or such a potential woman – to bring out the best in her. (It’s also possible she was speaking tongue-in-cheek about the impossibility of finding such a gem!) At any rate, I’d like to examine the chapter with a view to man’s role in the life of this fabulous godly lady. And I’m not looking for ways that men fail women or vice versa – I’m looking for clues to optimal partnership.
I’ll be using the NIV because other versions aren’t saying what I want them to say. Don’t laugh, you all do it.
If, as many speculate, King Lemuel is a pseudonym for Solomon, then one can only wonder that Bathsheba taught him all about the virtuous woman when she, herself, was not necessarily a virtuous woman. All through the book of Proverbs, both Solomon and David rail against “the loose woman who is, in the end, bitter as gall”. I’ve long wondered if Bathsheba was up on that roof skinnydipping because she knew very well that King David was still in town, and in the high-rise next door. The Bible doesn’t say she was raped, though it talks openly about other rapes. I’ve always wondered if Bathsheba was a social climber … but then, she’s not here to defend herself, so I mustn’t be assertive about it. Perhaps she was simply young; or, as one friend suggested, dumb as a bag of hammers (see her assistance to Adonijah, not registering that he was actually asking her to help him displace her son by donating another Royal Widow). Also, she could have penned the oracle later in life after a multitude of experiences and lessons. We’re none of us static.
For the uninitiate: King David (who already had a harem, and who should have been away at war) caught sight of Bathsheba (married to one of his lieutenants, Uriah, out in the field), and had a one-night stand with her. She fell pregnant, a coverup failed, he orchestrated Uriah’s death in battle, married Bathsheba, they lost the baby, then the next, legitimate, baby was Solomon. It’s equally possible that David was bored and drunk when he sent for Bathsheba, because if she’s indeed the mother of “Lemuel”, it would explain why she urges her son to stay sober on the throne “lest [he] forget what the law decrees”. Contrary to the Richard Gere movie, there’s canonical evidence that Uriah took very good, loving care of his wife. And of course besides losing the baby, the whole thing came back and bit David on the butt when Ahithopel (Bathsheba’s grandfather) sided with Absolom in the attempted coup.
But I digress wildly. As I am prone to do. Back to the Ideal Woman in Proverbs 31:10-31… who seems to be a ground-to-garment-rack spinner/seamstress/entrepreneuse. And her husband …
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
– Men, look hard. Real hard.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
– Give us free rein – we have pretty good judgment, and will look after you well.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
– Make sure we have the tools/money for tools we need to do our job well.
She is like the merchant ships, bring her food from afar.
– I am cooking Indian tonight, and you WILL like it.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
– I would really, really like some servant girls, and I’m willing to get up at the crack to organise them!
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
– Let us spend, and maybe we’ll spend on something that gets you a return and boosts your net worth. Also, let us have a job and income of our own – and we might surprise you.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
– Let’s have definite time & task boundaries so there’s a line between “expected” and “not expected”. Now and then we can bless each other spontaneously with something from Column B.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
– I like that lamp I saw in Ikea the other day. And a new spinning wheel would be great. Of course I can turn my hobby into a cottage industry, baby. Watch me.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
– Release us to give as God leads us to give.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
– Relax; I’ve got it covered.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
– I can decorate our love nest, and its main attraction, given a decent budget. For Heaven’s sake don’t try to colour-coordinate the house yourself.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
– You can get/hold down that job. I inflate your status magnificently. 🙂
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
– I’m going to need some unfettered time to do all this. I’m working, and enabling others to work.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
– Continue to empower and honour your woman, adding to her existing self-esteem.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
– So listen up 🙂
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
– I got this. And if you see me sitting down with a coffee and a novel, it doesn’t mean I’ve been doing that all day.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
– WE NEED AFFIRMATION. We work (and love) hard.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
– When the flash in the pan is gone, and I’m still loving and living for God, keep affirming me.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
– Where they will hear about said works FROM YOU!
Here’s to partnership.