April 5, 2012

A Noble Beauty

The Proverbs 31 woman has sort of become this cliche in the church. Let's just admit it. Many of us just get tired of hearing about this woman or some of us are prone to turn these verses into a to-do list, which if that's you, I'd recommend looking up the definition of the word "proverb," because proverbs are not to-do lists. Anyway, as just stated, I think we are prone to look at this chapter of the Bible with an cliche attitude. And that's wrong. Proverbs 31 if from God's Word which is living and active, and to think that any part of it is cliche is really just us being prideful. So today I want to look at Proverbs 31, which if you have never read it, you can do so here (it's rather long to be putting in this already lengthy post). But, before I go on, I want to make a couple of things clear and add a little context.
  1. I tend to approach the Proverbs 31 woman as more of a type of woman, rather than an individual (although that's quite possible), who embodies all the characteristics we love and admire in other women we meet and read about in the Bible. Jerram Barrs explained it this way: "We can see in her the dignity of Tamar when raped by her brother, the wisdom of Abigail, the faithfulness of Hannah, the fear of God that motivated Esther's heart, the moral strength of Deborah, the courage of Rahab, the devotion of Ruth, the faith of Naomi, [and] the perseverance of Sarah..."
  2. We see the Proverbs 31 woman is married. And I'm not. So I'm coming at this as a single woman, not a married woman. 
  3. We don't become like the Proverbs 31 woman overnight. Nor do men marry women who fit this description perfectly, as it's a constant growing process, and in many ways, men who support and love women well, will help the growing process even more... if that makes sense. What I'm trying to say is men have a role to play in giving women the space, encouragement, and support in order for her to flourish in this. 
So this post is really just me sharing some of the big ideas and takeaways I got from reading and studying this passage. (I realize whole books have been written on this, and dozens and dozens of girls have written blog posts on it, but maybe you can find something new, or at the very least be reminded and encouraged to cultivate some of these characteristics.)

She's Fully Devoted and Present in Her Relationships. Women are very much relationship oriented, and it's no different for Proverbs 31 women: She's a wife and a mother, she cares for the maidens in her household, and she initiates relationship with the poor and needy. Her love and devotion to the people God has placed in and around her life beautifully reflects how within the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, are devoted to one another in their relationship. She's diligent in seeing to the needs of those around her (Prv.31:12,15,20). She's self-less in her relationships, carrying out the command Jesus give us in the gospels to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39). Her attention is focused on how she can give, encourage, and serve those around her. She speaks wisdom and grace to others. She's trustworthy, honest, genuine... not shady. In other words, she says what she means and she means what she says. 
Love is her life. Her life is lived for the well-being of others. This means, too, that her life is deeply fulfilling to her, as well as being a constant blessing to everyone around her. -Jerram Barrs
Her husband has full confidence in her abilities and decision making as well (Prv. 31:11&12). He doesn't feel threatened when she makes a judgement call. (Now that's a real man!) Proverbs 31 portrays this woman as an equal with her husband, whose fully competent, but she's his complement.  For us single girls though who don't have a husband, we still have to relate to men on a daily basis, and I've found the following quote to be helpful in figuring out how to filter those various relationships:
At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships. -John Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Emphasis Mine)
So the question I must ask and then use to examine my life is "With the people God has placed in my life, how can I best love, care for (or nurture), and encourage (or affirm) them? How is God asking and leading me to do this?"

She Exercises Dominion and Stewards Well. You want to know the number one turn-off for me whenever I read this? It's the fact that this woman is basically an entrepreneur and lives off of little sleep. I have no entrepreneurial skills (or desire them) and if I don't sleep, I'm not a pleasant person to be around. Then I came to realize that having great entrepreneurial skill wasn't quite what was being promoted here, but rather the idea that this woman, in her own way, exercises dominion over that which God has given her. She's proactive in all that she sets her mind and hand to. This woman stewards and cultivates her time (which would've had to include sleep) and talents in such a way that her work brings glory to God and blesses those around her.
The woman of noble character is busy, tending the particular "garden" in which her Lord has placed her. -Jerram Barrs
She's a Bit of a Fashionista. Let it be known that dressing fashionably is not a sin. This woman has got some style (Prv. 31:22)! But this woman's beauty isn't simply just found in her clothes or outward appearance: "She dresses herself with strength..." (Prv. 31:17). This woman exudes a kind of confidence; she's comfortable in her skin and totally cool with being herself. It's a good and healthy kind of confidence. She's free to be herself and to be genuine around others without seek their approval because she fully knows where her approval comes from: God. which brings me to the next point...

She's Grounded in Her Identity. When I think of the Proverbs 31 woman I do not associate her with being meek, but rather strong. It's almost like she has this boldness to her (which I think shows there's hope for me since I can get pretty bold at times and think I'm too much). There's nothing wrong with being a bold women. I think this woman is 100% lionhearted, but at the same time she's cloaked in sweetness and gentleness. God has called women to be passionate and strong, but distinctively feminine and with tenderness. This kind of identity comes from the fact that...

She Knows the Lord & Her Trust is in Him. All her character qualities are anchored in the fact that she trusts God. Everything that I mentioned above hings on the fact that she walks with her Lord. If we try and make all these things happen apart from God we're sure to fail. I was particularly convicted on this point because in verse 25 it talks about how this woman "laughs at the time to come." In other words, this woman is set free from anxiety and fear about her future, because she continually puts all her hope in God in order to fight against such things. She's extremely active in sowing beliefs and truth in her heart, not lies. She attends to her heart and her relationship with God above all else. And everything else is simply an outpouring of this! So, as women we're to put Christ in the center, allow him to shape and fashion our hearts, then each one of us will uniquely live out our own version of Proverbs 31.

**Ladies, there's this great book that if I were you I'd get my hands on called Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible by Jerram Barrs.

4 comments :

  1. You have done an incredible job with this series.

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  2. love it :) the proverbs 31 woman is a strong one :)

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  3. Thank you so much for this post and for breaking down what being a modern day Proverbs 31 lady looks like. Blessed be. :)

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  4. Such a blessing! I've been reading up on being a virtuous women and how today's society has spoiled what God has intended for us! Keep allowing the Lord to lead you! I don't know you but I Love You! Be blessed :)

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