The woman described in the Book of Proverbs, chapter 31, both inspires and intimidates me. No matter what I do, I just can’t keep up with her. I envision a youthful woman sewing clothes for her family and servants late at night in the waning candlelight, bartering with stingy merchants for material during the day, and generously giving poor beggars money and even warm bread whenever the opportunity arises. She stands proudly beside her husband at social engagements. Her clothes highlight her physical strength, which further complements her stunning beauty. “She laughs at the days to come” because she has no anxiety.
My life is certainly not all that put-together. I nod off in the evening with my to-do list grossly incomplete (I think the last time I used a sewing machine was in my home economics class). I guess I am physically strong…at least I was before the babies came (now I am just out-of-shape). Fashionable? Not really, and it’s not like I have ample free time to go shopping. Free from anxiety? Definitely not. How can anyone be like her?
In my task-oriented mindset, it is always easy to measure myself according to what I have not accomplished. But recently a good friend recently changed my perspective. She pointed out a few key verses that I do achieve every day. So I present to you ways that the very ordinary woman can be extraordinary and a true Proverbs 31 woman.
1. Verse 28: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; / her husband too, praises her”.
Although my babies’ speech is still limited to babbling, I do understand their praises. In fact it begins when they first wake up. It’s the best part of my day. After the initial glance-at-the-clock-and-cringe, I get up and walk to the babies’ room. The door creaks open. It’s still dark. Two silhouettes are standing straight up in their cribs. They see me. The chipmunk chatter starts up and the two silhouettes start bouncing, Elisabeth bounces rapid fire style, and Margaret is slower, squats all the way down and pulls herself up. I pick up one, bring her to our bed, and retrieve the second. When the babies were really small, we would all cuddle up and snuggle as a family. Sometimes we would fall asleep for a few more minutes. Now that they are almost toddlers, they are crawling over us and to each corner of the bed. No more chance to snuggle and fall asleep, but it’s still the best.
There is another moment that I cherish. It’s when I pick the babies up from day care. I sneak in the door, and watch while they play with the older kids. So cute. It’s not long before one of them looks up and sees me, and then comes the crawling across the floor on high speed. Little baby exclamations of delight and the pit-pat of baby hands and feet on the floor: that’s a pretty good moment too.
2. Verse 12: “She brings him profit / not loss”
I have to remind myself daily why I work. When the time constraints of the day allow me only a couple brief hours with my babies, I tell myself that I work because we need the income. And yet I struggle with the day care cost. It’s a catch 22: If I didn’t work, we would be down to one income, but the fact that I do work creates the biggest expense of our monthly budget, besides housing. It’s an impossible dilemma that I know many families face. How I lament our society’s lack of sympathy for working mothers and their families!
As a working mom I bring my family profit, but stay-at-home moms also save their families much money on day care. It can be an impossible choice, but I respectfully consider either option profitable.
3. Verse 30: “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; / the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
May we never lose sight of our true purpose as mothers: to raise children to love God and to serve others. To-do lists are not the measure of success, and true beauty is not limited to expensive clothes and a pretty face. The spiritual aspect of motherhood can transform any Plain Jane into a supermodel celebrity.
So I have come to two conclusions: First, even if I can’t weave clothes for everyone in my household, I have a husband and children who give me praise. I contribute to our family’s well-being both financially and spiritually, which is just the same as the wonderwoman of Proverbs. Second, why do we women spend so much of our precious time comparing ourselves to other? God did not create me to be this perfect superwoman. He sent His Son to die for me so that I could be the best-version-of-myself. The woman of Proverbs, albeit very successful and talented, lived in a different culture and a different era. I was created to live today, to run my unique race. The comparing of myself to others is thus major distraction and wasted energy. Although I can find inspiration in others, they should not determine my own success. I will let my babies’ delightful goos and gahs measure that. And by that standard, I’d say I’m doing just fine.