An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She also does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard." Proverbs 31:10-16
Okay, ladies, let's be honest: Taking that first verse, "An excellent wife, who can find?", what picture comes to mind?
First, please allow yourself a sigh of relief. We're not looking for society's--especially not Hollywood's--version of The Excellent Wife. That lady eats a leaf of lettuce for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. She wears pearls while she vacuums, drives a late-model minivan to take the kids to soccer practice, always looks like she stepped off the set of Desperate Housewives, and is secretly always seeking to "find herself."
Let's forget that picture. Let's go instead for the one painted by the author of Proverbs 31, King Lemuel of Israel. He does a wonderful job of painting a portrait of her for us, the woman who is excellent in God's eyes.
Now, before we even get started, note that she is the excellent wife. Strong's Concordance translates that word to chayil in the original Hebrew, and the word in English translates to strength, ability, efficiency, wealth, force, army.
Nowhere do we find the word perfect in there.
So we can rule out what she's not. She doesn't always have her hair and makeup done. She runs out in jeans and has a Mets (Yankees? Jets? Panthers?) T-shirt to the supermarket because she forgot the cheese for the mac & cheese. She smudges her nail polish, forgets to charge her cell, and has the occasional argument with That Excellent Husband of hers!
Incidentally, Mr Excellent isn't perfect, either. Yet these two share a relationship that is grounded in faith, trust, and mutual respect for each other.
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Further on in our text, it speaks of her relationship with her children, her servants, and other people in her life. First and foremost, though, is her relationship with her husband.
I'm now at that age where my kids have kids. Our two lovable little boys, Joey and Brandon, grew up to be wonderful young men. They moved out, married to two lovable young women, and have kids and homes of their own.
That leaves my husband, Bill, and I back to Square One: Just him and me, alone in this house (that eventually will be downsized, we hope, for a little ranch).
That's a dangerous time for some marriages. A husband and wife sometimes spend so much of their time, along the way, pouring themselves into careers and the kids, that they dread the Empty Nest chapter of their lives. Many couples find themselves almost to be strangers once the dreams have been chased and the children have moved out.
Yet Mrs. Excellent "does him good all the days of her life." Listen, I know that marriage isn't always a romance novel. Still, 1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to, "Let all that you do be done in love." We also have a promise straight from the Lord, who said, "For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20 NIV)
The woman in Proverbs 31 applies those principles in all that she does. "She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens."
Before you tell me, "All right, now that's where it gets tough!" Hey--that is the Christian wife and mother. He may be the head of the home, but you are the heart of the home. The heroine of Proverbs 31 knows she is needed. That her home doesn't run quite the same without her, even if she is a working mom and wears even more hats. She also understands that her work, what she does for her husband and family, is of value. That what she does is important to her loved ones.
And, sisters, God takes pleasure and He honors those things that you do every day. God is glorified in those things that you may take for granted, that at times we all may do grudgingly. The Lord is glorified all the little things: in the dusting and the grocery shopping; the picking up of children from daycare; the straightening up of the living room; the tending to pets; the posting of masterpieces drawn with crayon and posted with magnets on a refrigerator; the times that we work late and come home from our jobs, serving take-out pizza to a hungry family for dinner.
He is glorified in the driving of an aging parent to the doctor, since many of us are in "the sandwich generation," where we are taking care of children and elderly parents. He is glorified in the washing and folding of our loved ones' clothes.
He sees everything we do. Not one act of love that we do, however small or mundane, goes unnoticed by our Heavenly Father.
Jesus knows, personally, the Proverbs 31 Woman in your home. You are known and you are noticed and you are appreciated by that Heart.
For Part II of The Heroine of Proverbs 31, please click here.