Posted by: Erica | March 15, 2010

The Proverbial Woman

When my great-aunt passed away a couple of years ago, the pastor who gave the funeral service eulogized her straight from the text of Proverbs 31: 10-31.  You probably know these verses that exemplify a “virtuous woman.”  If not, you can familiarize yourself at this link to the Biblegateway website.  As I sat there listening to the comparison between God’s standard for women and my Aunt Ella, of how well she had embodied the characteristics of domestic proprietress and loyal wife,  I couldn’t help thinking that the same thing could have been done for my own grandmother and, from my knowledge, most of her 8 sisters.  They were extraordinary women; among them were gifted musicians, vocalists, legendary cooks, expert agriculturalists, and talented artisans of various handcrafts.  But, all nine shared their two strongest traits:  devout love for the Lord and down-right stubborn will.  All in all, these aspects added up to a remarkable set of women who, not only became respected matriarchs of their own families, but also managed to create something of a legacy in my home community, known among friends and neighbors as the “Strong Thomas Woman” standard.  Surely if old age is a blessing from God, bestowed upon those who live in a manner pleasing to Him, “Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33), then He found favor in theirs.   All of them lived into their golden years, Aunt Ella passing at age 90, my grandmother, 92. 

Now, I wouldn’t say that I felt the “pressure” of living up to this standard as I was reared under my grandmother’s watch.  She was far too loving and forgiving for that word.  But, it’s safe to say that I felt its “presence” while I was growing up.  I was taught to make quilts for my dolls.  I was put to work in the garden as soon as I was old enough to pull a weed.  I had to practice how to properly peel a potato without shaving off too much of the vegetable and throwing it out as waste.  I learned that the men ate first at family gatherings, that “good girls helped their mothers,” and that watching TV “wasn’t getting anything done.”   

All grown, a wife with a family of my own, these are the things that have formed my inward moral compass.  And, when at times I”m feeling as though I’ve lost my way in life, I invariably return to Proverbs 31 for guidance.  I know that despite whatever woman it is that I am wanting to be, it would be a mis-step with dangerous consequences if not in line with God’s plan. 

Still, every time I read it, I come away frustrated.  I’m left wanting to go back in time and ask the women who led our gender into the workplace just exactly how they envisioned that playing out.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for women’s rights and equality.  But, I can’t imagine that they were bargaining for two full-time jobs whenever they sought freedom to work outside of the home at one.  Did they think that our fairy godmothers would show up to take care of the chores and the children?  Perhaps they still relied on paid domestic help.  I know that maidservants are mentioned in the home of the Bible’s virtuous woman (vs. 15).  Working the fields, gathering food from afar, weaving bed linens, making my family’s clothes….it seems like “mission impossible” in a modern society with an economy based on two-incomes per family.  In a conversation I spent lamenting to Martin’s grandmother my desire to have more time to make quilts, she let me off the hook, “Don’t worry about that.  You won’t have time until you are retired and your children are grown.”  But, even when accepting the need to provide financial assistance, today’s woman may still find herself in the paradoxical scenario of  having to define the fine-line between subserviency for her family and personal ambition when it comes to her career.   

Of course, in God’s eyes we are not justified by how well we measure up to worldly definitions of success, or to each other, or even to our husband’s expectations.  I am ever thankful that when I fall short of the purely Holy and good mark that He has set, Jesus has met me there with enough grace and mercy to bridge the gap.  Times have changed!  And, just maybe when the Bible quotes that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time,” (Genesis 6:9), we can take this as an indication that God realizes our plight and will still look favorably upon a new era of women who take strides to walk with Him.  So, here’s to my contemporaries!

It’s hard to be a good wife these days….

Such a wife is better “bling” than luxury-suite Superbowl tickets.

Her husband lets her drive his new truck, and wouldn’t trade her in for a younger model.

She has a job, bringing in more than she spends, so they can enjoy their retirement.

She works third shift and meets the kids when they get off the bus.

She carries in 30 plastic Walmart bags from the back of the minivan, in the rain.

She washes sippy cups on Saturday mornings, while her husband sleeps in.  She only dreams of hiring a maid.

She wants her family to have a nice home, so she spends her extra money on new curtains, to offset the expenses, she plants a garden.

She takes the job with the highest salary, instead of the one she’d rather have.  She works hard to earn a raise.

She takes night classes to qualify for a promotion.

She learns how to knit to make an heirloom blanket for her baby.

She stays up late to bake cupcakes for fundraisers and volunteers for parent committees when she doesn’t really have time.

She braves the chaos at the grocery store when snow starts to fall.  Her husband doesn’t worry about going hungry, she’s learned a few things from Food Network.

She does the laundry and, between loads, shops for designer clothes on E-bay. 

Her husband has a respectable career.  She’s left her home so he could climb the corporate ladder. 

She wakes before dawn to get yard-sale deals on kid’s clothing.  She resales those they’ve outgrown at consignment stores.  The extra cash comes in handy.

As she ages, she hopes her loyalty and love will outlast her beauty.  She only rolls her eyes when she’s promised that dream vacation.

She gives good advice, but lives with the decisions her husband makes to the contrary.

She comes home from work tired, but does the housework anyway.  After homework and dinner, there’s no time for TV.

Her children grow up and wonder how she did it all.  Her husband then realizes he should have done more. 

Our grandmothers lived hard lives, but a modern wife surely has her share of burden.

Seduction can be faked, and plastic surgery can go awry,

but a woman who works full-time and still makes it to church on Sunday is doing the best she can.

Give her the foot massage she’s requested,

and let her buy that new purse at the mall.



  1. I think the trail blazers envisioned husbands carrying equal weight around the house and with the kids.

    • Well, they were quite optimistic, weren’t they? Ha ha.

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