Following is a piece I wrote 3 yrs ago and have been passing around to my friends ever since. I’ve had a few requests to post it here so…you may want to get some coffee. It’ll take a couple minutes to read.(also, the book of Proverbs in the Bible only has 31 chapters-that makes the title funnier to those unaware!)
THE PROVERBS 32 WOMAN by Joni Ruhs ©2003
We’ve all heard of the Proverbs 31 woman. In some circles we have even been beaten over the head with the virtues of this perfect specimen and ultimate role model. Or perhaps you’ve never read about her. Let me sum up: She stays up all night making sure the work is done, she gives jobs to her servants for the day, she never complains about her husband and does nothing to make him look bad. Her husband sits at the town hall all day while she’s out considering and buying fields, making fabric and selling it in the marketplace, and of course she maintains an intimate relationship with God. On top of that, her children bless her first thing in the morning.
I’ve always wondered what a Proverbs 32 woman would look like. I think she would roll out of bed around noon and stay in her robe ‘til 4 pm. Her kids wear the clothes she picked out of the unfolded-but-clean laundry basket from two to four days ago. She pops in a frozen pizza for dinner and opens up a bag of salad. The kids get a bath once a week whether they need it or not. Instead of blessing, they harass her from the moment they wake up: “I don’t wanna get out of bed, I want cereal, where’s my socks” and “but Mom, I needed a rotating model of the solar system for my school project TODAY”. She’s not sure how much is in the bank since she lost the ATM receipts that were in her wallet. Or was it the checkbook? She knows she’s got work to do around the house but her servants don’t exist and there’s so much to do she doesn’t know where to start so she watches Dr. Phil and wonders how those people got to be so bad off.
Some of you are cringing right now. I am. I’m also smiling. I’ve seen myself in several of these desperate positions on quite a few occasions. Is the Proverbs 31 woman real? Is that really God’s expectation of us women? Why isn’t there a Proverbs 31 man? Well I suppose there is a Proverbs 1-30 man. I think the first verse in this passage Prov 31:10-31 says it all…”a women of virtue, who can find” (emphasis mine). Who can find a virtuous woman? Some translations call her a woman of excellence or a noble wife. Let me suppose.
I think God finds the woman of excellence. She may not be excellent when He finds her but she will become new. The bible tells us, “…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come”(2 Cor 5:17) A little while ago, my husband and I went through a very painful, gut wrenching experience where he was deeply wounded and subsequently, I along with him. Through the process of sorting out that experience, the Holy Spirit did amazing things. Life as I knew it in Christ had ended. Most everything I had been taught or perceived about living a Christian life was mistaken. This process brought me to the end of me. I felt stripped of my identity and now I was faced with the task of learning who I really am in Christ. And step by mind-boggling step, I am digging into the subject. Its an exciting journey because the woman I used to be wasn’t all that excellent at times, so the change is doing me good.
The Apostle James says that anyone who is not a doer of the word, is like a man who looks in a mirror, walks away and forgets what he looks like (James 1:23ff); essentially, a person who checks himself out but walks away without doing anything to fix what he saw. That was me. I was making me up as I went with an occasional glance in the mirror of the Word of God to back up my position—not knowing who God made me to be and in some ways not knowing God, nor how that should affect my behavior(Col 3). But now the task at hand is to look into the scriptures to make these discoveries–to see who I am in the light of His grace and tender, daily mercies; not who I think I am or what I perceive others require of me but who God declares me to be and His expectations. I find it interesting that the less I look at myself and the more I look at God, the clearer my reality. I am trying to stop looking for scripture to back up my personality and philosophy on life. I am looking to scripture to reveal my personality and discover my philosophy on life. It’s downright liberating.
Every day and I venture to say moment by moment, I notice parts of my character and personality that have been affected by years in a dysfunctional relational culture. Bit by bit the Holy Spirit brings something to mind that requires tweaking and my eyes open and I think “Ohhhh, so that’s it”. Its quite fascinating yet extremely slow and remedial. Sometimes I feel like a piece of clay that He was forming into a particular vessel. As I refused to bend to His touch, I developed irreparable flaws. Flaws so destructive that He had to completely tear down what had been shaped and start over with me as a lump on the potter’s wheel. In this condition I am much more pliable and moldable in His hands. I don’t cling to any former shape or structure. The old has gone, the new has come.
I would suppose there are as many applications of Proverbs 31 as there are women. Perhaps you are the Proverbs 457 woman or the Proverbs 1,236 woman. Who has God made you to be? A few things we are sure of. To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) We are daughters of the King. Precious. Objects of concern and delight, heartbreak, grief and joy. We are lost sheep, lost coins, a prodigal son and a good and faithful servant. There is no pat answer to who God made us to be individually. I do know that God made us and that there is an ongoing process of refinement in His plan. It is a continuing journey of discovery and grace. A discovery best made in the presence of the Creator.
So then, an excellent wife, a woman of virtue, a noble woman who can find? God can. And has—sitting right there on his potter’s wheel.