Tag Archives: Proverbs 31

A New Take on “The Proverbs 31 Woman”

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.

Proverbs 31:10 (NIV)

Those who are even occasional readers of my posts know that I often make reference to the Enneagram. We were first introduced the Nine Types by our daughter many years ago. As it’s grown in popularity, we have been asked to introduce it and discuss it with various groups. We are, by no means, experts. We have simply shared our personal experiences of understanding and how the Enneagram has helped our relationship as we have come to understand and appreciate one another in deeper ways.

Over the years we’ve had many, many conversations with individuals, couples, and groups about the Enneagram. Of course, one of the first questions that is asked is, “Do you know what type you are?” Wendy and I quickly began noticing a certain pattern among women who are card-carrying followers of Jesus living primarily in Christian community.

They almost all say they are Type Twos (a.k.a. “The Helper”). Here’s the summary description of Type Two from the Enneagram Institute:

Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

Enneagram Institute

The problem, of course, is that it’s not possible for 80-90% of Christian women to be Twos. Either only females who are Twos follow Jesus, or those who do follow Jesus are miraculously transformed into Twos by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Wendy and I pondered and contemplated this phenomenon, we came to the realization that “Twos” sound eerily similar to the ideal wife and mother described in the epilogue of Proverbs; She is otherwise known as “The Proverbs 31 Woman.” Motherhood, in and of itself, requires the actions of self-sacrifice and unselfishness that come naturally to Twos. Yet, a person’s Enneagram Type is not rooted in actions, but motivations. I have come to believe that many individuals fall prey to this confusion. They may project themselves to be, or truly desire themselves to be, that idealized version of womanhood that both the church and Christian community have relentlessly told them they should be.

In today’s chapter, the book of ancient wisdom ends with a rather eloquent description of a “wife of noble character.” She’s the picture-perfect supportive spouse who is an asset to her husband’s public image and career. She’s the super-charged industrial homemaker and the perfect mix of Joanna Gaines and Martha Stewart. Her clothes, decor, and children are all Pinterest-worthy. She’s tireless and shrewd. She’s the undisputed CEO of the home which always runs with efficiency, organization, productivity, timeliness, and keeps the household budget always in the black. She is intelligent, spiritual, and practically wise; a combination of Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker. Her children think she’s the coolest mom in the world, and they all dutifully reflect her Proverbs-Thirty-One-ness in dress, appearance, and behavior. Her husband would never look twice at any of the “wayward” and “adulterous” women that Proverbs has been incessantly mentioning for thirty chapters, and this is because…well…while charm may be deceptive and beauty fleeting, “The Proverbs 31 Woman” actually has those, too! She’s the whole package.

Except, no woman is all these things. In my almost 40 year journey of being an adolescent-to-adult male and a follower of Jesus, I’ve never met a Proverbs 31 Woman. I’ve met women who seem to look like her. They project her image, but it’s never real. She’s just an air-brushed model on a magazine cover painted and lit to look like the ideals of maternal, marital, and spiritual virtue.

I’m probably going to get into trouble writing this, but let me share with you the observation of an old dude who’s spent his entire life surrounded by and in relationships with amazing girls and women.

Unintentionally, the book of Proverbs can easily do a disservice to the women in my life. The ancient sages Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel lived in a brutal, patriarchal society that developed out of a need for a strict social order (as I explored yesterday) to ensure survival. Women are presented in Proverbs in a binary fashion: bad (wayward, adulterous, contentious, quarrelsome) or ideal (The Proverbs 31 Woman). So, lady, what’s it going to be? Do you want to be good or bad? And, if you want to be good, then you must be ideal.

I’ve observed along my journey that the women in my life often allow themselves to fall into these binary mental traps: fat or skinny, beautiful or ugly, sexy or lonely, smart or dumb, popular or not, trendy or so-not-with-it, and etc. So, what I’ve observed happening are perpetual cycles of pressure, hopelessness, despair, striving, depression, and never-ending comparison to others hoping (and/or judging) “If I’m not ideal then at least I’m better than….”

So, I’m going to wade into dangerous territory this morning and I beg your grace and forgiveness upfront. If this old husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, employer, mentor, colleague, neighbor, and friend were to re-define what Proverbs calls a “woman of noble character” for all the amazing women in my life it would go something like this:

A Becoming Woman

If you find a becoming woman, you are blessed.

She is learning to embrace the individual, in mind, body (all of it), and spirit just as her loving Creator intentionally and uniquely knit her DNA together.

She has made an honest inventory of both her personal strengths and her intimate struggles; She is persevering in her efforts to build on the former while diminishing the latter.

She seeks roles and positions that make the most of her unique gifts and abilities, though they may not fit the dreams she once had, the norms of her community, or the expectations that others have placed on her.

She is learning how to accept God’s grace and forgiveness for all of the mistakes, faults, imperfections, and sins that she knows so well, even when others have not forgiven her; She is learning how to be gracious with herself, letting go of her own desires for perfection. She embraces the knowledge that she’ll still be learning all of these things when she reaches the end of this earthly journey.

She loves her husband and children genuinely, sometimes passionately, though often deficiently. She embraces the journey of becoming that is being a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She presses on, neither denying the many faults and mistakes of her past nor becoming complacent in the onward journey of becoming that is always leading her further up and further in.

She is doing her best for her family even though it feels like a thankless task most days. She is struggling constantly against the lie that she is a hopeless failure in her role and responsibilities. She is learning to let it go when all that she has already done is summarily ignored while the incessant demands for more keep building up, seemingly with every moment.

She is realizing that the Creator has lovingly made each of her children as unique as she, herself, is unique. She desires that each of them becomes the individual God has made them to be. She desires that each child discover the unique purposes God has for them, even as she’s learning in fits and starts to let go of her own personal desires and expectations which can feel so instinctual and can be so strong at times.

She is learning to care more about the emotional and spiritual needs of her child than she cares about how her child’s appearance, actions, achievements, failures, words, and/or behaviors might influence how others, especially other women, in the community perceive her and her mothering skills.

She is purposefully mindful of her own needs and is learning that taking care of herself in mind, body, and spirit is necessary to manage every other role and relationship in her life.

She is purposefully mindful of her husband’s needs. She is learning to meet the unique needs that fill his love tank (though it may not fill hers), speak his unique love language (though she may not be fluent), and to be gracious with his unique shortcomings as she needs him to be gracious with hers. She is learning to encourage his own unique gifts, strengths, and purposes even when she realizes that they aren’t what she once thought they were or what she wants them to be.

She has surrounded herself with other good women who know her faults and love her anyway and who speak truth into her even when she doesn’t want to hear it. They are present even when time and/or miles create physical separation. They pick her up when she is down. They cheer her on in her endeavors and celebrate her in her accomplishments. They struggle through and survive relational strife with one another, learn to forgive one another, and graciously walk life’s journey together all the days of their lives.

She is learning, persevering, seeking, letting go, embracing, pressing on, realizing, desiring, purposeful, struggling, endeavoring, loving, giving, caring, forgiving, and she is surrounded.

She is loveable, valuable, and capable.

She is becoming.

A note to readers: You are always welcome to share all or part of my chapter-a-day posts if you believe it may be beneficial for others. I only ask that you link to the original post and/or provide attribution for whatever you might use. Thanks for reading!

Fill ‘er Up

2011-10-21 Autumn Boat RideShe brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12 (NLT)

In the book His Needs Her Needs, Willard Harley presents a very simple word picture to describe the give and take that happens within marriage on a moment by moment, day by day basis. He asks couples to picture an internal “love tank” that we all have. With our thoughts, words, and actions we can either make deposits in our spouses love tank that fill them up and produce an increasing sense of love and well being or we can make withrawls that slowly deplete the love tank until our spouse feels empty and drained, and depleted.

Wendy and I talk a lot about marriage. We talk a lot about our relationship and relationships in general. Like every marriage, ours is a union of two broken people living in a fallen world. We are in a unique situation. We work together for the same company out of our home office. We serve together in the visual tech ministry of our church. We re-create together as board members and participants in the local theatrical community. With little exception Wendy and I are around one another 24/7/365.

Ask Wendy or me about the other’s shortcomings and we can supply you with an ample list. We are far from perfect people, and being around one another all the time produces no shortage of opportunities to see one another at our worst. A good friend of mine recently asked me about his observation that there is a genuine loving-kindness he witnesses between Wendy despite the fact that we are around one another all the time. It’s really pretty simple I told him: she fills my love tank, and I do my best to fill hers.

Wendy has chosen in to the things I love. She’s joined the tragic ranks of Cubs fans. She switched allegiance from her Denver Broncos to make my Vikings her favorite team. To be honest, I know she really doesn’t care that much, but she knows that I do and that’s the point. She is considerate of the things that trip my trigger and makes an effort to trip my trigger on a constant basis. I am so knocked out, blessed that I want nothing more than to return the favor and consideration by discovering what trips her trigger and returning the favor. It’s been a process, but I think I’m getting there. When things get tense between us, and they do, the anger and ill feelings quickly drown in our love tanks which are overflowing.

I have observed many marriages which operate in a daily tit-for-tat game of competitive love tank withdrawl: “If you get to do this, then I get to do that. It’s my turn. Let me check the ledger and check the tally. You owe me. It’s time to pay the debt, baby and believe me the interest on that debt has been compounding daily!” Rather than viewing the fulfillment of their spouses need as a good thing for the relationship as a whole, they begin to view it as a diminishment of their own love tank.

I know that this is a simplistic word picture in the complex relationship that is marriage. Yet when I read the above verse, my soul says “That nails it. That describes Wendy. She makes constant deposits in my love tank that far outnumber the withdrawls.”

Today, I’m reminded that I can’t control my spouse, but I can control my own thoughts, words and actions. I want to do good, and not harm. I want to make deposits into Wendy’s love tank, not withdrawls.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 31

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? 
      She is more precious than rubies. 
    Her husband can trust her, 
      and she will greatly enrich his life. 
    She brings him good, not harm, 
      all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:10-11 (NLT) 

I believe it to be a small dose of synchronicity that brings us to this chapter on St. Valentine’s Day, and you’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to honor the woman I am honored to have as a partner on the journey.

Today, I’m grateful for the woman who enriches my life and brings me good each and every day of our sojourn together.

a priceless Woman
Enriching my life each day
of Noble character
Dazzling to my eye
the one with whom I Yearn to be