Making peace with the Proverbs 31 woman

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I had a desire to be this Biblical gold standard, but then at other times, it seemed to be another standard I could just never live up to. I mean, really. Come on. She finds wool and flax, and spins it (v 13); she plants a vineyard (v 16); and she makes her own bedspreads (v 22). I don’t do any of this!

I decided to turn my love/hate relationship into one of understanding.

Who is she? And why is there an entire chapter devoted to her in the Bible? The last chapter of Proverbs, in fact; when so many others have focused on a different type of woman-an evil, manipulative, promiscuous, and adulterous woman. One who uses her beauty to deceive and lure.

Maybe because she is in fact the total opposite of those described in Chapters 5, 6, and 7. One closer to God. She is more than a woman who is “bitter poison” (5:4), or “cares nothing about the path of life” (5:6).

She honors God. Loves God. Does His will. Seeks Him first.

The writer of this well-versed chapter makes this difference known in the very first verses of Chapter 31. According to the author (King Solomon…who actually needed this advice), King Lemuel was actually given this advice from his mother: “Don’t dilute your strength on fortune-hunting women, promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders.” Proverbs 31:3, MSG. Those chronicled in those earlier chapters; those that bring destruction. Momma goes on to describe what kind of woman she desires for her boy.

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12, NLT

Virtuous. Other translations describe her as noble. In other words, righteous. Good. Honest. Upright.

And she isn’t just trusted and honored by her husband. But most importantly-God.

Momma wanted the King to find him a godly woman. One of integrity. Honesty. With strong moral character.

One who was the same in secret as she was in public.

Our Heavenly husband desires this as well.

If you look back to those other chapters, those women (and ladies…let’s not be remiss to realize that men can be these things, too. This isn’t just for the ladies)…what do we find? Worldly qualities. Things folks desire simply from seeing, hearing, and trusting things other than one’s character. “Words like honey.” (Proverbs 5:4). “Lustful beauty and coy glances meant to seduce” (Proverbs 6:25).

The P31 woman is much more than looks, charm or words. She walks with God, and she mirrors His ways. When she speaks she doesn’t speak words to deceive or beguile. She speaks words of praise. Encouragement. Truth in love. She is a woman of integrity, and God has confidence and trust in her decisions, because they match the truth she reads. The life she lives, and the way she speaks.

She desires good for everyone. Not destruction. Most of all, she desires God.

And she desires Him for others, too.

I used to hate her, but now I love her. I used to want to be anything BUT her, but now she’s all I want to be.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:25-26, 30

That’s a godly woman. A woman of truth and integrity. A woman I long to be.

Note: Now that I have made peace with the Proverbs 31 woman, and continue to find peace with myself, I have some ways for you to do the same. Come back this weekend for an exciting announcement!

Offering Cups of Grace

“But as Jesus saw her walking toward the well where He was waiting, He saw what others did not see; a future trophy of His grace.” Derwin Gray, Limitless Life

There is often a common stereotype the surrounds the term “Christian.” Words like “hypocrite” and “judgmental” come to mind as those that are often thrown around. The very words that do not at all describe Jesus, are used to describe a throng of people who are supposed to be loving, kind, and forgiving.

And the fault is all our own.

Because, sometimes when we become Christians, we also inherit the false sense of responsibility to judge the actions of others.

That’s just not our job.

But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. James 4:11-12

Yet, often when we become saved ourselves, we think others will be too, but only once we point out all their flaws. Once we dole out our “Christian” judgment. Once we complete what we think is our job.

“Do you and I give people cups of grace to drink, or cups of judgment and condemnation?” 

What cups do we hand out? Do our conversations look anything like these?

“I can’t believe she wore that to church.” Because we think it is our job to judge the outward appearances of others.

“Oh my! Does she have any control over that child? Clearly all he needs is some discipline!” Because we think it’s our job to judge the skills of another mother.

“Did you see that picture on Facebook? I cannot believe he/she posted that!” Because it is our job, of course, to judge the actions of others.

“Why should a drug addict get out of prison early? They got what they deserved!” Because we think it is our job to judge the sins of others.

But, it’s not our job.

When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do the very same thing. Romans 2:1

And it means that I will be judged for all the times I have said something to condemn someone else (because, yes, I have said all of the things I mentioned above). I will be judged because I thought it was my job to condemn everyone who was not living the way “I” thought they should be.

It’s not my job.

No, my job is to give out cups of grace to everyone I meet. Just as Christ himself did. The Son of Man who never sinned. A man who could have easily judged and condemned the sin of others, but instead “humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8)

My job as a Christian is to show the love of Jesus, without condemnation. My job as a Christian is to remember that I was once a sinner. Once foolish and disobedient. Once mislead. Once a slave to many lusts and desires.

I was once the one who wore that to church. I have been the mom with the screaming child. I have also partied, and committed acts of sin that I would never want on Facebook.

And, I was also just like the woman at the well. An outcast. A teenage mother out of wedlock. A divorced woman living with a man who was not my husband. A girl, and a woman in need of grace. Not judgment.

It’s no longer my job to condemn those sins, but to proclaim to everyone how God made me new. How I was saved from my bad choices, my deplorable behavior, and how much I am loved unconditionally despite the things I have done.

It’s not my job to judge.

It’s not my job to condemn.

It’s my job to be Jesus in the flesh. To reach out to all. To offer them cups of grace. To believers and non-believers alike. Sinners and the righteous. The lost, and the saved.

It’s not my job to judge. It’s my job to love.

 

I’ll Take a Portion of Him, Please…

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The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore, I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

I am pretty good at hiding. I am not talking the hide and seek game we played as children, or that we play with our own children. I am talking about hiding that involves stuffing my emotions and feelings. All the junk I don’t want people to see. I’ve gotten pretty good at playing the “paint a smile on my face” type of hiding game.

I’m also pretty good at hiding my emotions behind a new pair of shoes, a new scarf, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, or a milk chocolate candy bar. And, while I have stuck to my rule of not buying new clothes, I have not been so diligent with food. Instead of using my emotions to splurge at Target, I have used them to splurge on my calorie allowance.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul…but I seek out portions of M & M’s found in the kids’ Valentine’s bags over the portion of all that is good and found in Him.

And then I paint on a smile…

In an effort to show the world that I didn’t just spend an afternoon wrestling with a 5 year old over the number of chocolate chips in his bowl. To hide the fact that I didn’t know whether to throw the chocolate chips across the room, or shove the whole container in my mouth.

To hide the massive headache that only gets worse when the kids are fighting and screaming, and I can’t decide whether to scream back or drink a 2 liter of Coke.

To hide the fatigue that has nagged my body for days, and that I am debating over exercising for energy or crawling on the couch with that pint of Phish Food.

To hide my emotions, my pain, my struggles behind food.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. Yet, I hide behind a painted on face and a pint of ice cream, instead of hiding behind the one who has mercy on me each time I stumble.

Last week I talked about moving around the mountains in our lives, but find myself here, once again heading south to the fridge, instead of north to the Lord. The one whose mercies never cease.

I don’t want to keep hiding behind a painted on smile, or chocolate chips, M & M’s, and Coke. I want to come out from behind the painted on mask, step away from the pantry, and seek His love and mercy. I want to rest in the promise that when I stumble, when I want to scream and run to the fridge, that his mercies are also new each day.

This means that today I can rest knowing I get another chance to come out of hiding. I get another chance to realize from where my portion comes.

My portion of strength comes from God, not Mars chocolate.

My portion of rest comes from God, not Ben or Jerry.

My portion of patience comes from God, not a 2 liter’s worth of caffeine.

The portion I need to find new mercies, love, and power to get through any rough day, massive headache, or screaming child is not found in the calories I consume each day. It is found in Him. So, give me a hefty portion of God, please.

Clothed in Him

I admit it. I am a woman who has an obsession with clothes. I have a closet full of clothing, and I like to look fashionable and “cute.” However, my outside appearance, my put-together attire, doesn’t often match what I feel on the inside. Yet, I still worry about what I look like, and how my external appearance looks to others.

A few years ago I started a fashion blog. I chronicled all the outfits I wore on a daily basis. I plastered on a smile, posed for the camera, and shared with the world just how “put-together” I appeared on the outside. Although fashion is a part of who I am, a part of my internal make up, and one of my passions, the painted on smiles and happy appearances were not me. I haven’t posted a picture or outfit on that first blog of mine in over a year, and it was during my blogging hiatus I began to reflect on what truly makes a woman “fashionable.”

“The Lord does not look at the thing man looks at. Man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I finally realized that God does not care about my shoes, he does not care whether my outfit looks like I stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalog. What God cares about has nothing to do with my outward appearance. Still, many days I find myself shedding my nice layer of clothing, the clothing I use to hopefully cover up all the ugliness I was hiding on the inside. The clothing I use to hide all the parts I don’t want others to see.

She is clothed in fine linen and purple. Proverbs 31:22

I wonder how many other women, when reading about the righteous woman described in Proverbs 31, get stuck on verse 22, and fail to take note of the rest of the passage, the verses that indicate the clothes about which God really cares:

She is clothed with strength and dignity; She can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:25-26

Strength, dignity, laughter, wisdom, and instruction come not with the price of fancy clothes, but with complete reliance on Him, honesty with God and others, and with a heart that seeks Him alone, and not the approval of the world around us. It means shedding our layers of fine clothing, and sometimes having to expose the things in our hearts and lives that just are not that “fashionable,” and showing the world that we are not all as “put-together” as our outside appearances may lead others to believe. It is also relinquishing the idea that a woman of true character, a woman after God’s heart, must be a woman that looked like she stepped off a runway. 

Shedding our layers of fine clothing, and letting others and God see our true hearts, does not mean that we need to let ourselves go. We can still adorn ourselves with perfectly accessorized ensembles, but with the realization that only God can make us completely “put-together,” something even the finest runway outfit will never be able to do!