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A Clarification about the Proverbs 31 Woman Post

July 23, 2012

I don’t know if you realize this, but writing publicly is actually really difficult for me. I so crave your approval, and I hate to be misunderstood. Most of all, the phrase “I’m so disappointed in you” still breaks my heart in a way that surprises me. So when my article on Why I Hate the Proverbs 31 Woman was picked up, it was one of the worst moments of the year for me. Because I suddenly became the object of a lot of disappointment.

I stand by the article. But I think some things may have been unclear to some of you, due to the style I used to write it. So here are my clarifications.

1) No, I don’t really hate the Proverbs 31 woman. A careful reader will notice that I hate the caricature of her – the impossible standard that is a heavy burden for many Christian wives. I believe with all my heart that we are to be diligent with what God has given us – as we see the biblical portrayal of the Proverbs 31 woman doing. I am a stay-at-home mom to two very young boys, and I work my tail off just to keep it that way. I believe that whatever we do should be for the glory of God.

BUT. Keeping a clean house does not make a woman a Proverbs 31 woman. That’s so not the point. If you’re pouring into your children and discipling them and guiding them, if you’re opening up your home to others and being Christ to them, and you have dust bunnies in your closet, please do not think you’re a failure of a Christian wife. We don’t have servants like many Hebrew women did, and American standards of cleanliness are quite excessive. The Proverbs 31 woman probably had a dirt floor. So if all your blogs with schedules for cleaning house each day are stressing you out and making you feel like you’re not enough, then stop reading them.

2) The entire point of the article was that we don’t work our way into God’s approval of us. This is called (if you’ll remember) THE GOSPEL. The woman that God finds pleasing is a Jesus woman. This is not a call to be lazy. But it is a call to rest in the grace we have already been given, and to continue each breath in that grace.

I think the biggest backlash I got here was from men. If you’ve never, ever felt like your acceptance with God was based on how well you did everything – reading your Bible, praying, cooking nutritious meals, budgeting, child-rearing – then I’m so glad! This article was not intended for you! But I know I’m not alone in feeling like an absolute failure for not being June Cleaver. I received dozens of emails from women who breathed their first deep breath in ages because they finally realized that Jesus makes them holy – not housework.

3) This was not really an article about gender roles and marriage (complementarian vs. egalitarian). My marriage was questioned by some, which was rather hurtful. I don’t really care how you order your marriage, as long as you are treating each other with respect and as Christ’s love demands of us. It requires sacrifice and humility and endurance, no matter which camp you fall into.

My husband and I do have an egalitarian marriage based on mutual submission, though as a stay-at-home mom, I generally take on the traditional “female” roles – housework, cooking, cleaning, bill-paying. We feel that this is God’s best for us and our personalities and our marriage, and we believe it is biblical. It’s going well because our marriage is not based on who does what and who’s in charge, but because it’s based on Jesus Christ.  I’m truly sorry if this upsets you, but I hope you’ll realize that this is a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things. I’m 100% sure that it’s possible that your marriage is ordered differently from mine and it works well, too.

4) Geez-Louise, I know there is no verse 52. Of course it says nothing about weighing 110 pounds and having country-singer hair. This is called sarcasm, not bad exegesis. I’m telling you that many women hinge their worth on their appearance to unhealthy extremes, sometimes promoted by popular Christian pastors in order to keep your husband from cheating on you. I promise, this message is out there, and it’s damaging. (FYI: I do believe we should all take care of our bodies. Eating garbage and inactivity are not the way we should treat what God has given us. But women should never be subjected to fear tactics like this.)

Please, if you take anything from this post, take these words (from the original article):

“When we read Proverbs 31, we need to remember to jump ahead to the New Testament.

Jesus – not a list of rules – makes a woman into a Proverbs 31 woman.

He takes a controlling woman and teaches her to put others before themselves. He indwells the lazy woman and provides her with purpose and perseverance. He gives her the mind of Christ and instills wisdom in her over time.

He breathes warmth into her cold heart and helps her become compassionate. He gives her strength in her weakness. He gives her dignity in her shame.

The real Proverbs 31 woman is simply a Jesus woman.

The fruit of the Spirit has always been, and will always be, the outcome of a life submitted to the Holy Spirit.”

 

I hope you’re not still disappointed in me. But I think I’ve been as clear as I can be.  Can we move forward?

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Cheryl Whitesides permalink
    July 23, 2012 10:31 am

    There are some people who will find fault where there is not fault to find, remember what they did with Jesus! I truly enjoyed your Proverbs 31 woman article, and I totally got what you had to say. Thanks Aubrey for encouraging women young and old to be Jesus women!

  2. Amanda H permalink
    July 23, 2012 10:37 am

    I am sorry you had to write this… I am sorry that opinions turned into criticism instead of open-hearted contemplation about God’s love and grace. I loved the article. I was never disappointed.

    • MicB permalink
      August 1, 2012 8:28 am

      I, too, am sorry that people are so quick to be mean, particularly Christians. What your article said to me is that you GET grace. So many think they do, but their actions are not graceful. I learned what God’s grace is by experiencing many angry, judgmental, legalistic, and pretentious Christians. Christians should stop this destructive behavior – on blogs, Facebook, and in every day in-person interactions. Non-believers (and believers) see Jesus through us, and such is not the message we were commissioned to give.

  3. July 23, 2012 10:55 am

    Aubry, I loved your original article. People are quick to react about anything that may cause them to think. I read a bunch of the comments they wrote, and many needed to be chastised for their hateful words. It was ugly. Sweet Aubry, don’t back down. I don’t think your writing could ever disappoint me or my mom.

  4. July 23, 2012 11:49 am

    Beautifully said Aubry!

  5. Tim permalink
    July 23, 2012 1:15 pm

    On top of your great points here, Aubry, I’d add that people need to come to grips with the fact that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a real person. There wasn’t some amazing woman who did all those wonderful things perfectly all the time and then got written up about it in Scripture.

    Instead, the Proverbs 31 Woman is a personification of all the wisdom found throughout Proverbs, just as Wisdom is personified as a woman in the opening chapters. No one, man or woman, can be who the Proverbs 31 Woman is just as no one can be the embodiment of true Wisdom found in all of Proverbs. But – as you say – we can find our true identity in who Jesus is. And really, why bother looking anywhere else?

    Nice job, Aubry,
    Tim

  6. July 23, 2012 3:28 pm

    Never was disappointed ;)

  7. Ashley permalink
    July 23, 2012 10:37 pm

    You’re awesome and your writings encourage, re-direct and challenge me. Thank you.

  8. July 25, 2012 3:50 pm

    I think that people are threatened by your insight because it means that they might need to change how they view life. Oddly enough, most people choose the comfort of slavery to the risk of freedom. So, I really appreciate what you have to say about the pressure we, as women, put ourselves and – let’s not forget – each other under. It’s a confusing time for us as our role in society is redefined, but it’s women like you who can help lead us through this identity crisis. I’m with you. I’m sick of feeling that no matter what I do with my life, it will never be good enough because unlike the Proverbs 31 woman, I cannot be everything that my family needs. If I’m not mistaken, that’s God’s job. Keep writing about issues that matter.

  9. July 26, 2012 1:37 pm

    just for the record, I wasn’t disappointed in you, and I love this post.

  10. James Doran permalink
    July 26, 2012 5:15 pm

    All the people who said, “I am so disappointed in you,” need to: 1.) Google “sarcasm”, 2.) Stop offering fake pity as a means of demonstrating how much more spiritual they are than you, and 3.) Read more than the first page of articles.

    That article was awesome, and a major encouragement to my wife. Keep doing your thing.

  11. July 27, 2012 4:25 pm

    Aubry,

    I want to reiterate the support of the ChurchLeaders team. You wrote a really great piece and we stand behind you and your writing.

    Your intent, from our perspective, was clear — if some of the harsh commenters did not understand, perhaps they did not approach your post with openness in the first place.

    Please don’t let these voices cloud your vision or discourage your writing. Your voice is an important one for the Church! Blessings to you, your family, and your ministry!

  12. August 13, 2012 8:27 pm

    KM said…

    I read the original post and I can relate to what you said. There are so many studies on the Proverbs 31 woman. Of course, studying about her is great when it’s done in the proper context. However, there seems to be this Proverbs 31 woman obsession. Yet, there is little to no conversation or study about the Proverbial Man of Noble Character when his description is just as Biblically sound and relevant.

    Aubry:
    Have you ever considered doing a study or post about the Proverbial Man of Noble Character?

    Man of Noble Character
    A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. Pro 1:5
    Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Pro 9:8
    Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. Pro 9:9
    …a man of understanding holds his peace. Pro 11:12
    The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. Pro 11:25
    A good man will obtain favor from the LORD. Pro 12:2
    A wise man is he who listens to counsel. Pro 12:15
    A prudent man overlooks an insult. Pro 12:16
    A righteous man hates falsehood… Pro 13:5
    Every prudent man acts with knowledge. Pro13:16
    He who walks with wise men will be wise. Pro 13:20
    A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. Pro 13:22
    The sensible man considers his steps. Proverbs 14:15
    A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil. Pro 14:16
    He who is slow to anger has great understanding. Pro 14:29
    A man of understanding walks straight. Pro 15:21
    …he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Pro17:27.
    What is desirable in a man is his kindness. Pro 19:22
    A righteous man who walks in his integrity– How blessed are his sons after him. Pro 20:7
    A wise man scales the city of the mighty And brings down the stronghold in which they trust. Pro 21:22
    A prudent man sees danger, and hides himself… Pro 22:3, 27:12
    A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power. Pro 24:5
    For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity. Pro 24:16
    A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished. Pro 28:20
    A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. Pro 29:11

  13. Jen Moore permalink
    May 12, 2013 2:35 am

    Well said, thank you!

  14. July 7, 2013 1:21 am

    I think there’s more to the Proverbs 31 woman than people initially realize when just reading the passage. I’ve incidentally been reading a new book by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst called “Kingdom Woman” that has given me new insights. Right off the bat they talk about the Proverbs 31 woman being the hallmark of kingdom women, “But the Proverbs 31 woman is not the model of a perfect woman. Neither is a kingdom woman called to perfection. Women, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman and more – but that doesn’t mean you do it all at the same time.” They talk about life flowing through seasons and about getting help, not trying to do it
all. It’s really eye-opening. If you’re interested in Dr. Evan’s book, they have information and even free devotional downloads at kingdomwomanbook.com. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

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