A 31 (year-old) Woman
As my 31st birthday approaches (this Friday!), the “Proverbs 31 woman” has been on my mind quite a bit. I guess this is cliche since it seems the topic has been exhausted by women’s Bible studies, devotionals, books, podcasts, sermons, etc., in recent years. For many, this Biblical paragon is an elusive model of Christian womanhood that brings with it a tinge of bitterness….but I believe that is a mischaracterization we can attribute to the downfall of sin, as with many other Scriptural misinterpretations (read: http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/161344-aubry_smith_why_i_hate_the_proverbs_31_woman.html). It’s tempting to feel intimidated by the poetic representation of a woman who appears to “do it all”, as verse 29 states:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:29
She is a woman of talent and character, hard-working and always putting the good of others before her own… she seems perfect, too good to be true. And perhaps she is. A tiny notation on these verses (Proverbs 31:10-31, “The Wife of Noble Character”) states: “Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.” Ah ha! These verses are poetic — symbolic, even! This isn’t a representation of a real woman, it’s just a collection of admirable attributes, individual character traits arranged in alphabetical order towards which we might strive, clever and pretty-sounding…. like a Dr. Seuss poem…. right??
While that would be an easy out, I’m inclined to think not. God never expects less than perfection. In fact, He requires perfection, which is exactly what we cannot achieve. On our own. He sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to achieve it for us. Even the Proverbs 31 woman knows this, because she is a woman “who fears the Lord”, and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). She cannot become “a wife of noble character” on her own. She does not wake up every morning with a checklist to “bring good, not harm, all the days of her life.” No, she begins with the fear of the Lord, the summation and binding factor of any praiseworthy deed. She is trusting in His provision to bring to completion the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6). And beginning with that trust, she can do all things in His strength.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”