“She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:12
Recently, whenever it’s silent and I refuse to let my mind begin to obsessively worry about my future, I find myself thinking about this verse. My friends and I joke about being Proverbs 31 women whenever we bake a good loaf of banana bread or cook a delicious meal or do something nice for our men. But the more I’ve thrown around that phrase, the more I’ve begun to ask myself what it means – and if I’m truly doing it justice.
Now, I personally think that the Proverbs 31 woman couldn’t have been one real, living, breathing person. (Someone needed to teach that woman about boundaries. I mean, if all she did was work, when did she have time to make babies? Ridiculous.) I think that list is mostly idyllic, similar to me asking God for a man who looks just like Ryan Gosling and puts my wardrobe to shame while rescuing orphans and battered women from the wretchedness of our unjust systems, then coaxing them back to health through his therapeutic musical skills. He would also write poetry, have perfectly rippled muscles, have a tear-jerking testimony, and be a self-made millionaire by the age of 30, solely for the purpose of giving all that money away to a good cause.
See how unrealistic that is? That’s how I feel about the Proverbs 31 woman. Instead of feeling utterly incapable of being the perfect woman described in that chapter, I choose to look at it as a collection of desirable traits from multiple Godly women.
I once heard a speaker at a conference reference the above verse and ask us to consider the fact that this woman brings him good not only while they are together, but all the days of her life. She doesn’t wait till she meets him to begin praying for him or learning what it means to love sacrificially. She doesn’t wait till they’re married to make a commitment to sexual – and emotional – purity. She doesn’t wait until he starts pursuing her to clothe herself with dignity and strength, or to speak faithful words. These things are a part of her life long before he is.
It’s easier to dream about the woman I’ll be when I’m “off the market” without acknowledging the fact that said woman will be a product of my choices today. That my obedience – or disobedience – today, doesn’t affect only me. That if I make it a habit to tear people down when they’re in a valley, or to be mean-spirited, or to let filthy language cross my lips – or saturate my mind – or to be self-centered, I am choosing to live beneath the standard set for me. I am bringing him harm, not good.
I bet that Proverbs 31 woman, if she was at all one person, didn’t just instantly become industrious and selfless. I bet she spent the many years before her marriage cultivating those qualities. And I wonder if I can claim that title of a “Proverbs 31er” if I’m unwilling to put in the effort to become one.
There is a higher calling that births confidence in us, clothes us with strength and dignity, and enables us to laugh at, instead of fear, the days to come. And we’re free to choose which one we’ll answer to: the higher calling, or our selfish desires for comfort.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25