A Clarification about the Proverbs 31 Woman Post
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?