Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10 (NIV)
A Battle Cry To Love – She Is Series – Part 1
The section of scripture that haunts women in their dreams and at conferences.
Oh, the many torrid moments of my relationship with these verses. Having grown up in the warrior princess age, this scripture was toted and declared and plastered and preached and popped everywhere. The list of things the woman/wife/mother achieved in that chapter was like a weight around my neck.
“Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.”
Ruby is my birthstone. But virtuousness? I’m afraid my claim to rubies might be mute in that department.
The woman in Proverbs 31 is a freak. Seriously. She’s perfect for Instagram and Pinterest. She’s the ideal, the standard, the epitome of “Christian woman.”
She gets up early, she makes gourmet food for the kids (and they eat it… obviously. They’re her kids, right?), she exercises, runs a profitable charity helping thousands, she makes and mends clothes with ease and sells her creations on Etsy, she’s real estate savvy with her own portfolio, and she crafts: scrapbooking, candle making, knitting, decoration building, cake making… And then she frames everything perfectly and posts it on Instagram. Selfies of course – not a hair or eyebrow or makeup or outfit out of place.
I hope you can appreciate my slightly dramatic interpretation of how this scripture has been used and viewed. And men, how this verse has felt for us womenfolk. And sure, it hasn’t all been bad. There are beautiful parts of Proverbs 31; encouraging, noble parts.
The beauty of it lies in its poetry. Yep, this chapter of Proverbs is a poem, not a dot point list. It’s not so much a poem praising a domestic queen as it is one that celebrates the heroic acts of a warrior. In fact, “who can find a virtuous wife?” in ancient Hebrew, Eshet Chayil, more closely translates to “woman of valor.”
Some Scholars believe the verses from ten to thirty-one to be the eulogy for King Lemuel’s (he’s the guy at the start of the chapter) late Mother. And when writing a eulogy in ancient Hebrew times, you used hyperbole to sacralize and honor the lost loved one.
It’s a poem. It’s not so much the words or the actions of the woman that makes her a warrior, but the way in which she loved and served her family, friends, and others out of the stores of her own energy and vitality. (Notice I said ‘stores’… because building them up are a part of how you love others well.) That is truly heroic and can translate into a million different scenarios of motherhood, partnerhood, and womanhood.
Also, the ancient Hebrews understood Eshet Chayil allegorically as a representation of the Shekhina, the feminine presence of God, welcoming her with renewed energy into their midst, and praising her for her valor. In this sense, Proverbs 31 is less something to live up to, and more something to live enveloped in: the nurturing valor of the feminine presence of the Divine.
Proverbs 31 is not a to-do list, a standard, or a task master: it’s a battle cry to love those in our lives well (including ourselves) and to celebrate our bravery in doing so along the way.
As Glennon Doyle so aptly put it, Proverbs 31 can by summed up in these three words: Carry on, Warrior.
And as any good warrior knows, the day is not won in glory and fame, but in the quiet seemingly mundane and repetitive moments. Not unlike the daily rituals and responsibilities that women (and men, too) put themselves to every day.
Carry on, Warrior, in your love and service to yourself and those around you, in the good times and the bad, in ill health and wellness, in heartache and joy.
Eshet Chayil, you are not alone.
Written by Liz Milani