My Dubious Attempts at being a Proverbs 31 Woman (aka SuperWife)

In September I joined a women’s Bible study group that meets on Tuesday mornings. The name of the study is Intentional Living. The passage we are studying is Proverbs 31. I know. Every wife and mother out there just gave an involuntary shudder. Why does this particular passage strike fear into the hearts of women everywhere? Well, if you aren’t familiar with it, this chapter describes a woman I like to refer to as SuperWife. This lady is unbelievable. She’s up at the crack of dawn, and works late into the night. She manages the cooking, cleaning, scheduling, and dressing of her family with the ease and precision of June Cleaver/Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker, so that both her husband and children wake up telling her how wonderful she is. She also has several side-businesses that she keeps going in her free time (Etsy, Craig’s List, Rea Lana, craft fairs…she’s got them all covered). She’s a savvy investor, dresses stylishly and elegantly (and I’m sure cheaply), and is such a support to her husband that all his friends comment on what a lucky guy he is. Does every wife want to be described this way? Absolutely! Is it possible? Heck no! The very thought of trying to follow in this chick’s footsteps makes me want to lay down and nap for the rest of the afternoon.

As a recovering perfectionist who still backslides every once in a while, this is a dangerous passage for me. Still, it’s in the Bible. Since I believe all Scripture is the inspired word of God, then I have to believe that this is the ideal God is calling me to, right? So I’m trying. The first area I’ve tackled is home-care.  Now, if you’ve been to my house you know that we’re not messy people. “A place for everything, and everything in its’ place” is a credo that my mom lived by, and since we’re all destined to become our mothers in some way, I live by it too. When we reached the home-care lesson in our study I went into the discussion feeling pretty confident that my housekeeping skills were up to snuff. Then our leader starting talking about things like “zone cleaning,” dusting the baseboards, cleaning out the oven, and washing the windows inside and out, and I began to feel like my “I clean it when I notice it’s dirty” approach to house cleaning is just not cutting it. When I got home I started noticing things like the spiderwebs gathered in the corners of our bedroom and the dust caking both sides of the ceiling fans (how does the underside of the fan get dusty, especially when it’s always on?) and decided that though my house is nicely organized, it desperately needed a thorough, deep cleaning.

So I made a plan. I listed all the things in my house that needed to be cleaned, then decided how often to clean them (daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, or yearly). I wrote my plan out on index cards (one of the methods recommended at our Bible study meeting) and spent the past week tackling each area of my house in turn. Monday: do laundry and clean the washer and dryer. Tuesday: Vacuum and dust the living room, dining room, entry, and laundry room. Wednesday: clean the kitchen counters, table, microwave, stove-top, sink, and the inside of the refrigerator. Thursday: clean the bathrooms, scrub out the showers, clean the drains (I got a little crazy and made my own shower and drain cleaner – thanks Pinterest). Friday: vacuum and dust the master bedroom, nursery, and office. Result? The house is cleaner than is has been since way before Charlotte was born…I’m thinking at least a year. Also, I’m so tired of my Swiffer duster and vacuum cleaner that I don’t want to see them again for at least another month, even though my “plan” requires me to pull them out and do it all over next week. I didn’t even touch the windows, and the baseboards are still a mess.

Is this what it takes to follow God’s calling for my life as a wife and mother? Is Charlotte destined to spend large chunks of time sitting in her bumbo, watching Mommy clean like a mad-woman (that is until she’s old enough to hold a dust rag, at which point I will put her to work as my assistant maid). Somehow, even though my house is sparkling and you could eat off the floor (not exactly…I didn’t mop, because that is next week’s monthly task) I feel like I missed the point. I’m not supposed to eat the bread of idleness…but cleaning like a crazed germaphobe? That doesn’t seem like the answer. And what about all the other verses? When do I have time to make sashes for the merchants, or extend my hand to the needy? Is a wife who feels like a bedraggled maid with dishpan hands really worth more than rubies to my husband?

Obviously the key to my dilemma of how to be a Proverbs 31 wife and still feel like a human being is balance and proper perspective. After all, Jesus himself admonished Martha to stop with her meal prep and just sit down and soak in his teaching like her sister Mary. I always felt a secret sympathy for Martha. After all, what would everyone do when the teaching was done and they were hungry and wanting dinner if Martha hadn’t been slaving away in the kitchen to make sure their physical needs were provided for? Thinking about it now though, I suppose Jesus might have been addressing the attitude of Martha’s heart – telling her that she was concerning herself with the temporary and missing out on the eternal. And how guilty am I of that. I do try to spend time in God’s word and in prayer daily – but I didn’t spend nearly as much time on my devotions as I did on cleaning this past week. And shouldn’t my time playing with Charlotte at least equal the time I spend keeping the house dust free?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my struggle has a lot to do with redefining my identity. For the last ten years a lot of my identity was wrapped up in being a teacher. Now my “career” is motherhood. But the truth is that I shouldn’t find my identity in either of those places, but in Christ alone. It’s hard. It will probably take a lifetime, and still I won’t have it figured out. But I can try. And I’d rather put my efforts into becoming a better daughter of God than on turning into SuperWife, because I know that the Holy Spirit is with me on that quest. His mission is not to create superheroes, it is to sanctify sinners. Not as glamorous perhaps, but infinitely more worthwhile and actually attainable.

Anyone else out there struggling with trying to be SuperWife or WonderMom? If you’ve figured out how to let go of the drive to be perfect, any advice or tips for this recovering perfectionist?


3 thoughts on “My Dubious Attempts at being a Proverbs 31 Woman (aka SuperWife)

  1. Kim said… Part I

    There are so many myths and misgivings surrounding the Pr 31 woman. Instead of it being used to edify women, it's often taught in a way that prompts drudgery, pressure and condemnation.
    “Is this what it takes to follow God's calling for my life as a wife and mother?” Most likely, sisters Mary and Martha were single. The Bible doesn't list husbands for them. Martha had developed a “works” mentality, while Mary discovered what it meant to sit at Jesus' feet. There was nothing wrong with the chores that Martha was performing. In fact, they were very necessary for everyday life, yet Jesus said “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her (Lu 10:42).

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by WORKS, so that no one can boast (Ep 2:8-9). While it's true that faith without WORKS is dead (Ja 2:17), no amount of house cleaning can save your soul or make you a better a person. Mary discovered that a long time ago.

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  2. Kim said… Part II
    The Pr 31 woman is a composite of several virtuous women listed throughout the Bible and not so much the checklist that people try to make it.
    Pr 31:10:
    Everyone in her community knew that Ruth was a virtuous woman (Ru 3:11).

    These women were called blessed:
    Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Pr 31:29)
    Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. May she be blessed above all women who live in tents. (Ju 5:24)
    Mary – Thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Lu 1:28)

    These women spoke wisdom and faithful instruction. (Pr 31:26).
    Unnamed wise woman of Abel's wise instruction saved her city. (2 Sa 20:19-22)
    Esther was woman of strength and dignity who feared God. Her wisdom helped saved the Jews from annihilation. (Book of Es)
    Pilate's wife spoke with wisdom and faithful instruction. (Mt 27:19)
    Others in her community had “full confidence” in the prophet Huldah's ability to authenticate a very important book for the king. (2 Ki 22:14-20).
    Rahab “watched over the affairs of her household.” She wisely and faithfully “instructed” the spies about how to hide and escape. She negotiated a plan that would save her life and the lives of those in her household. (He 11:31)
    Priscilla worked with her hands too. She was a tent maker. She assisted her husband in giving Apollos wise and faithful instruction. (Ac 18:26)
    Prophetess Anna's lamp didn't go out at night because she worshiped God day and night by fasting and praying. She wasn't idle, and wisdom and faithful instruction were on her tongue. (Lu 2:36-38)
    Judge & Prophet Deborah wisely instructed the people of Israel. (Ju chapter 4 & 5)

    She has been like a merchant's ship that brings its merchandise from far away. (Pr 31:14)
    The Queen of Sheba literally brought Solomon gifts of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones from away. (1 Ki 10:6-10). Also like Pro 31 woman, Queen of Sheba'a earned a reward, and her quest for wisdom brought her praise. Queen of Sheba is one of the few women Jesus celebrates from the OT. She came from afar to hear the wisdom of a mere man. She was amazed at what she saw and heard. However, when Jesus who was greater than Solomon came, many despised, rejected, slighted and slandered Him. (Mt 12:42)

    Watched over affairs of household (Pr 31:27)
    Zipporah knew what she needed to do to save her husband's life. She brought him goodness and not harm. (Ex 4:14-20)
    Moses' mom hid him. Moses may or may not have called her blessed, but Paul felt she was blessed and listed her in the Hebrew Hall of faith. (He 11:23).
    Deacon Phoebe helped watch over the affairs of the household of faith. (Ro 16:1-2)

    Brings goodness rather than harm. (Pr 31:12)
    Midwives did what was “good” for newborns and refused to harm them like the king commanded. (Ex 1:15-21)

    Helps poor (Pr 31:20)
    Dorcas helped the poor. (Ac 9:36)

    Doesn't let her lamp go out… (Pr 31:18)
    Wise virgin didn't allow her lamp to go out. She was prepared when Bridegroom came. (Ma 25:1-12)

    Like the Pr 31 woman, Lydia was a woman of noble character. The name “Lydia” means noble.
    The Pr 31 woman wore purple, and Lydia sold it. Pro 31 woman was a merchant and so was Lydia. (Ac 16:14, 40)

    None of these women were superwoman, but each was super and virtuous in her own way.

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  3. Kim said … Part III

    Proverbs were written and/or collected by King Solomon, and he passed that wisdom along to his son(s). However, the wisdom of Proverbs is for both men and women. Likewise, many of the attributes used to describe the Pr 31 woman apply to men as well. Case in point, a virtuous wife will do her husband “good.” As believers, men and women are admonished to “do good” to our enemies (Lu 6:27, 35). Hebrews 13:16 is another example where Christians are admonished to “do good” and to share with others.
    The virtuous woman is hard working and not idle. Apostle Paul proclaimed the value of hard work and sternly warned men (and women) not to be idle (2 Th 3:6-12).
    The virtuous woman's words are wise and kind. Likewise, Ps 37:30 states that “the mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.”
    The virtuous woman takes times to care for the poor and needy. As believers, we are all admonished to care for the poor and needy (Ma 25:34-40).
    The most publicized Proverbs are usually the ones about women and wives. However, Proverbs contains a plethora of wisdom and knowledge vital to the entire body of Christ – not just women and/or wives.

    The husband described in Pr 31: 23 is a man like Job. Job was known in the gates and sat among the elders of the land (Jo 29:7). Many people ERRONEOUSLY tell wives that it's their responsibility to make sure their husbands are know in the gates. That's a lie and misapplication of scripture. This is not a wife's responsibility. Job was known because of his own actions. He assisted the poor and orphans. He helped those without hope. Everything he did was honest. He served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame. He was a father to the poor. He broke the jaws of godless oppressors. People listened to his advice. These were some of the job responsibilities for elders in the OT. Unfortunately, Job's wife was not a virtuous woman, yet that had no bearing on Job's actions because he was a man of wisdom and faith. He had his own personal relationship with God. Although it's not a wife's duty to make her husband known in the gates (like Job, that's a man's own responsibility), wives should not hinder their husbands (Pr 31:12).

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