I think that the Proverbs 31 Woman gets too much publicity.
Judging from the sheer abundance of bloggers that have either named their sites some derivative of her description from scripture or boast posts on how you too can be such a woman, I'm probably outnumbered a bazillion to one on this one. It's not that I think this chapter doesn't have merit, it does; it's just that I think we infringe on dangerous territory when we resolve to be everything that we read there.
This past month I've read dozens of blog posts by women who appear to do it all, often because of their self-appointed commission to become like the elusive Proverbs 31 Woman. Juggling mom duties and marital responsibilities, community outreach and hospitable invites, these women have their hands full and overflowing as they walk in simple daily faith with their Lord.
Yet even within these God-given and Jesus-led missions, they confess that they feel or fear a sense of failure or insufficient obedience because they have yet to take a shower and clothe themselves in fine purple linen or select which wool and flax will work best with the pinterest bible verse project they've been hoping to finish for their home.
In a manner of speaking, of course.
Having been inundated with the effervescent characteristics of the noble wife, they wonder to themselves what is remotely noble about bringing in your food from the nearby Costco or duct taping the recent rip in the store bought (read: not handmade) snow pants for the snowflakes that never seem to fall on their friends in Southern California.
Speaking, this time, in first person.
So absorbed with this specific descriptive, well-meaning women devote their lives to checking off each item as if on a spiritual to-do list: provided food for my family (here's to hoping it includes those female servants someday!), check; worked with eager hands (though I'm still working on waking in the middle of the night to run the dishwasher), check; went to three grocery stores far and away from my house (bringing food in from afar), check; made something and sold it (using the kids' lemonade stand as my front still counts, right?), check....
Not that there is anything wrong with any of these, by the way.
It's just that in our singular pursuit of becoming like one woman (who, by the way, probably wasn't even real; doesn't anyone read vs. 10: who can find her??), I wonder if we haven't set ourselves up for a Don Quixote-esque quest of a life God never called us to live. What was meant as a noble description is now used as religious conscription into a lifetime list of tasks to prove my wifely nobility.
Or worse, we use characteristics found there as justification for our own ambition or desires that weakens our impact in our own homes. While admitting life on the home front is frazzled and chaotic, I've heard women continue to insist that they too have a right to or must now secure additional vocations because, after all, good ol' Proverbs 31 Woman brought in her own income. I've heard women defend full shopping bags from the mall by insisting that every noble woman wears luxury designer fashion. There are even blogs that equate the effort to looking pretty on the outside to being spiritually beautiful on the inside and twisting verses to insist that a godly woman is one who looks good.
Please understand, I'm not calling for the resurrection of the 1940s housewife, perpetually barefoot and pregnant and forever ignoring the gifts and callings God may have endowed to you. I'm just testing the waters outside of the poetic world of Proverbs and smelling the burnt coffee in my very real world of La Mancha, questioning my own faithfulness in callings that matter most to my Father and my willingness to let go of those that only threaten to deplete and redirect my energies from where they are most necessary. I'm challenging too the trend to prove our spirituality by works rather than by an authentic heart that only God can see.
I wonder if, beneath the looming shadow of our erected Proverbs 31 homage, we're also losing the significance of so many other women whose lives and histories dot the 1,188 other chapters in the Bible.
Women like Ruth, whose main honorable virtue was remaining loyal to her mother-in-law and picking through leftovers for their daily food, who God chose as the great-....great-grandmother of Jesus. Or further back, Rahab whose notorious profession really had her working it, and yet it was her unabashed, simple faith that earned her too a vein in Jesus' family tree.
I wonder if Jesus' own mother concerned herself more with what she was wearing on any given day or what at-home business she should start than continuing to ponder in her heart the things God had promised.
Perhaps I should be more mindful in my daily reflection of examples such as Martha's sister Mary who left her work to soak up more precious moments with her Lord and Master or Hannah whose heart's only cry was for a child to raise, whose heart recognized the value in raising little ones to dedicate to the service of her God.
In my reading of His word, might I seek His calling and purpose for me, not striving to perfect one that others may find commendable but may for me be complete rebellion against what God is asking of me.
Were I yet eager for another prototype of biblical womanhood, Titus 2 depicts one complete with a checklist of her own. And between you and me, if I was in the proverbial playground with Proverbs 31 Woman and Titus 2 Lady as captains picking for the Modern Maiden playoffs, I'd be all, "Yo, Titus 2 Lady! Pick me, pick me, pu-lease pick me!"
And then all I'd have to do to be an all-star was avoid gossip, stay out of alcoholics anonymous, love on my husband and my kids, keep a good house and be a good wife - a heck of a lot more achievable credentials than what those on the other lady's team got's to do!
This year, I can fill my days with tasks leaving me with a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Or, I can purpose to concern myself more with the matters of my heart, trusting that a heart for Jesus will overflow in a life that reflects His greater purposes for my life and the lives of others.