The Proverbs 31 woman is… Golly. I don’t know. I hate her. She’s that perfect, tanned, accomplished, musical, impeccably dressed, shapely mom of several children who are cleaner than your two and don’t climb up the slides or throw mulch at the park. The P31 woman runs a business from home and still manages to have a clean house and feed her family well rounded meals with organic vegetables and grain fed meat. She probably has a freezer full of delicious meals to take to people from church at a moment’s notice, perhaps she even organizes the meal train.
She gets up early to have quiet time, she never yells, her children have dozens of bible passages memorized and the family recites the book of James before lunch every day.
Her husband is trim and well clothed because she feeds him a perfect diet and gets up early enough to choose and iron his clothes every day.
He’s very happy because while the P31 woman is demure and meek in public she’s incredibly good in bed, with great frequency and she never ever has any pain or emotional problems or if she does they don’t affect her performance at all.
And you can be just like the proverbs 31 woman, if you work hard enough and trust God enough, because this is God’s will for you, so the only thing standing in the way of you being just like her, is your own evil sin nature.
…. The proverbs 31 woman would also be the perfect friend, if any woman could stand her.
And of course, if she existed.
Ah, my nemesis. my old nemesis. Used by many people as an example of all the things i am doing wrong – or not doing at all and ought to be. A picture of many things i probably never could do or be, but apparently ought to be in order to please God and deserve my husband’s praise.
When I came to the chapter about her in Rachel Held Evans book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, i had a panic attack (the proverbs 31 woman would never start shaking, hyperventilating, and seeing flashes of lights at the mere mention of a figure of ‘encouragement’, i am sure).
It wasn’t the way she was written about. It was just that she was there. An image of all the ways i fail, all the time. And despite that Rachel was clearly saying the proverbs 31 woman should NOT be used this way i still had to put the book down for awhile. i took me a couple week, but after putting down the proverbs 31 woman, the perfect woman and my arch nemesis, i was able to pick up the idea of a blessing:
“So do Jewish women struggle with this passage as much as Christian women?” I asked.
Ahava seemed a bit bewildered.
“Not at all!” she said. “In my culture, Proverbs 31 is a blessing.”
Ahava repeated what I’d discovered in my research, that the first line of the Proverbs 31 poem—“a virtuous woman who can find?”—is best translated, “a woman of valor who can find?” And in fact, the structure and diction employed in the poem more closely resembles that of a heroic poem celebrating the exploits of a warrior than a domestic to-do list. Like all good poems, it was intended to highlight the glory of the everyday; it was never meant to be used prescriptively as a to-do list or a command.
Now, i’m still not ready to hang the chapter on my wall. But with the description of the poem as a blessing to woman of valor – not only to perfect models – but including me, doing my best with what i have – I might eventually be able to flip to the end of proverbs without hating myself. I might FEEL like a woman of valor someday.
Eschet Chayil, Rachel Held Evans. The blessing of Proverbs 31 was taken from me (both by others teachings and my own perfectionism), and a burden was left in it’s place. Thanks for writing to lift the burden and restore the blessing. You’re a woman of valor
And so am I.
P.S. A Year of Biblical Womanhood is only nine bucks on amazon right now, sweet!