Early in my journey of raising my girls many in my circle focused on Proverbs 31 as our training manual for our little girls. It was a good thing to raise our girls with their future in mind. More women than not are destined to be wives and mothers and even if they are not, the training is not wasted, as even single women have households to run or assist in their running.
But I don't believe that the only way to look at Proverbs 31 is for women to shoot for the mark or men to go out and look for a girl that mirrors this woman. I believe that you can look at this passage in another way, complimentary not contrary to the ways we have looked at it and the use to which we have already put it.
Remember Proverbs 31 are the words of King Lemuel as he recalled the teachings of his mother.
The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him:
What, my son?And what, son of my womb?And what, son of my vows?
The words in the first passage in my mind show that these things she told him were for him to remember for all times not just for the beginning of his career.
Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more. Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Then he launches into those verses that seem to indicate that men should go look for a particular woman to marry.
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax...But look carefully. He says "who can find?" And then proceeds to describe a mature woman. So unless a young man is being taught to go find a widow, this woman being describe is no future bride. She is the type of wife a woman becomes. And yes, I think that when you start to sew a dress it is always a good idea to start with the type of fabric that lends itself to a beautiful dress an not a sturdy rug. But I don't think that the only thing this verse is teaching is how to pick a preperfected woman. Perhaps King Lemuel's mother was teaching him how to be the husband that has a wife of such virtue, much like the passage prior taught him how to be and remain a good king.? Fast forward shall we to two important verses in the New Testament:
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)
Ephesians 5:25-32 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also love the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Christ forms his church. Can a man not form his own wife? I do not mean to let the wives off the hook, or mothers of young girls to be careless with their job. We women can be obnoxious and make a man's job far more difficult that it ought to be. We are response-able. And we can be ridiculously stubborn and hold to our own destruction in the face of true beauty and transformation.
For sure there can be no transformation without first a turning to Christ. But the word is for a man to be the leader. To lead others to the place God wants us all. I am sorry that the job is huge that lays before men. To be sure, I am so very glad I am not a man and especially one who has been given a hard job. I wish that all men could take on as difficult a job as my husband has and do it with as much patience, kindness, forgiveness, love and understanding as he has. I am thankful that he has allowed God to mold him so that he can mold me. I am also very sorry that I have been such a hard case at times and not turned out as well a wife as he deserves. I think that I will cover him with kisses tonight when he comes home. Or better yet, what he'd really like; no talking, have a beer and ......