Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Superwoman: the Proverbs 31 woman

I've always found the Proverbs 31 woman more than a little intimidating.

Here's a woman who gets up before dawn, provides for an extended household, weaves her family's clothes and bedding, runs a successful business, speculates in farmland, cares for the poor, works far into the night, and earns the praise of husband, children and her community! "Superwoman" indeed.

But I understand her a little better after hearing Claire Smith's "Superwoman" seminar at Equip a couple of weeks ago (sorry it's taken a while to write about it!).

Claire's seminar was so thorough, thoughtful, and heavy with gold, that no blog post can do it justice. A woman after my own heart, she obviously weighed and analysed every word before presenting her thoughts to us.

I thought I'd share some of her insights (you might like to read Proverbs 31:10-31 first):

  • Songs about women were usually about their erotic appeal, not their domestic prowess. But the woman in Proverbs 31 is described in military terms. She's strong, resourceful, energetic, intelligent, independent, productive, and vigourous.

  • The Proverbs 31 woman is rare, like rubies. Worth looking for, you men.

  • But don't expect to find her! She's an historical possibility, but she's also a stereotype, the good version of all the bad versions of women in Proverbs. For Proverbs sees things in black and white. She's not labouring under the burden of grief, a sick child, or a chronic illness (phew!).

  • She's no doormat or lackey. She's a responsible moral agent. Her approach to life is purposeful and thoughtful. She "selects", "considers", "sets about" and "watches over." She is who she decides to be.

  • Yet she's no feminist hero. Her primary sphere is the home. She works outside the home, but only for the benefit of her husband, children and home. She enhances her husband's work by what she does. (I found this very challenging. Do I think of my family or my own satisfaction when choosing what to do outside the home?)

  • She's active in the community, helping the poor and needy. (A question: should ministry and charity ever be at cost to our family? I think it's good for children to learn the cost of discipleship. Our aim is not to make them comfortable. But ministry and charity shouldn't undermine the primary responsibility to support, teach and nurture our family. [1 Tim. 5:8])

  • In her we see the truth that work is not only under God's curse, making it difficult and unrewarding, but also that work is a great blessing from God, which we can enjoy with thanksgiving (Gen. 1:28; Eccles. 3:13). This transformed my thinking about work!

  • She's is one of a long line of women who give wise instruction (Deut. 6:7, Ex. 15:20, 2 Kgs. 22:14; Ac. 21:9; 2 Tim. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 11, 14).
  • She clothes herself beautifully and makes rich coverings for her bed (Prov. 31:22), in contrast to the adulteress, who perfumes her bed and covers it with fine linens (Prov. 7:17-18). Good sex in marriage helps prevent bad sex.
  • Beauty may fade, but the fear of God remains. All that she does flows from her love for, obedience to, and trust in God. The Proverbs 31 woman may seem too good to be true, but like us, she lives under God's grace.


Sophie said...

Thanks for the recap. I always find it difficult to choose an elective at Equip, knowing that there's so much worthwhile stuff that I'm going to miss!

Emma P said...

Great Summary Jeanos.