For the past several weeks, my ladies' group at church has been reading through "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" which culminated Saturday evening in a talk given by the author, Rachel Held Evans. In the book, she highlights several "Eshet Chayil" (translated from Hebrew as 'woman of valor' even though most Bibles use terms such as 'virtuous woman' (KJV), 'worthy woman' (ASV), 'excellent wife' (NASB), 'wife of noble character' (NIV), and 'virtuous wife' (NKJV)) including Ruth, Deborah, Mary, Esther and Tamar, to name a few. In a nutshell, she contends that Proverbs 31 is not written as a to-do list for women, and mentions that in the Jewish faith, it is the men who memorize the chapter in order to sing as a praise to their wives during the Sabbath.
In her talk Saturday evening, Rachel was speaking of Ruth and pointed out how she was quite the opposite of the Proverbs 31 woman because Ruth was poor, a foreigner, a widow, and childless. In my mind, however, I was thinking how SIMILAR they were. Both are strong women who take initiative and work hard to provide food for their loved ones. Neither 'eats the bread of idleness'. Both were respected and known as 'excellent' women.
As we see in the Bible, it doesn't matter whether a 'woman of valor' is married, single, Jewish, foreign, a mother, childless, rich, or poor. I believe what matters is her ability to 'git er done', so to speak. When the chips are down, these women of valor know how to take matters into their own hands and do what they have to do. As my dad would say, these women are 'survivors'.
Some have come to hate the Proverbs 31 woman, believing it is
unrealistic for a woman to do everything that is described. It will
probably come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am not one
of them. I aspire to be a Proverbs 31 woman, an Eshet Chayil who can do what needs to be done. Some 'liberated' women feel that Proverbs 31 is a passage too frequently used to justify the notion that a woman's place is at home. Personally, I feel that only a woman who possesses the skills described in Proverbs 31 is truly liberated.
It is liberating to know that even if push comes to shove, I am able to feed my family healthy, nutritious meals. I am not dependent upon the grocery stores which only carry a 3-day supply of food, if that.
It is liberating to know how to make investment decisions, and wisely use those proceeds instead of being enslaved in debt like the vast majority of my peers.
It is liberating to be able to share with others, whether it's money, time, or talents.
It is liberating to not be afraid of the future, knowing that provisions have been made... whether it's food, housing, clothing, or finances.
It is liberating to have skills that I can use to earn money for my household if ever the need arises.
It is liberating to be in a place where I can 'laugh at the days to come.'
The females from the Bible profiled in "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" all found themselves in unexpected places. Widowed. Raped. Poverty stricken. Pregnant. Alone. It's a pretty safe bet that every one of us will eventually find ourselves in an equally unexpected place. I don't know about you, but when the time comes, I intend to wear the title of 'Eshet Chayil' instead of 'helpless fool.'
Rather than dismissing Proverbs 31 as an unattainable ideal, I think women (and men) ought to heed its wisdom. Learn practical skills. Practice entrepreneurship. Provide for your family. Become financially fit. Create. Prepare for the future. Git 'er done.