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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ultimate Introduction

As I mentioned last time, I have been pondering the Proverbs 31 Wife for several weeks now. Who is she really? What is her secret? How on earth does she seem to literally do it all?!

Let's start with our introduction to her. It's a doozy. 

Wow. Um, ok...what does it mean to be a "wife of noble character?" Well, let's take a look at some definitions:

Noble - adjectivenobler, noblest.
1. distinguished by rank or title. 
2. pertaining to persons so distinguished.
3. of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in country or state; of or pertaining to the aristocracy.
4. of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence
5. admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition
6. very impressive or imposing in appearance
7. of an admirably high quality; notably superior;excellent.
8. famous; illustrious; renowned.
So what I glean from this, when combined with Proverbs 31:10a, is that a wife of noble character is: distinguished, of exalted moral character, admirable, impressive, renowned. A wife of noble character is known for her noble character. She stands out in any crowd as a woman of moral substance and strong convictions, even if she's the shy, quiet type. 

Continuing on, apparently it's really hard to find such a "woman of noble character." I know how beautiful rubies are; I've admired them in brightly lit jewelry cases at Shane & Co. My knowledge of rubies was severely limited other than that. So, I Googled "how rare are rubies." Yup, when all else fails - I turn to Google to correct my ignorance. Here's what I found (courtesy of the International Gem Society):

Ruby is the red variety of corundum. It is quite a bit rarer than the [sapphires]. The rarity combined with the demand for rich red gems keeps the price very high. Among rubies though, there is no shortage of small gems, the kind used in cluster rings. They are somewhat expensive, but readily available. It is when you get into gems of a carat or more that they get really expensive. Good quality rubies in this size range are few and far between. The law of supply and demand is really obvious here. While many people would like a full carat ruby, few have the thousands of dollars needed to purchase one.

It's as though that last sentence was specifically written with Proverbs 31:10b in mind. Tiny rubies are common, just like how the separate attributes of a woman of noble character may be found in many women. But the one carat ruby - the woman whose character is entirely noble - is so rare that it is worth more than anyone can afford. Proverbs points out the big flaw in the comparison: a woman of noble character is worth far more than rubies. She's priceless and rare. 

Intimidated yet? Oh, we're just getting started...

According to verses 11-12, a woman of noble character inspires confidence in her husband. She flat out inspires him. He trusts her, and his trust is well-placed because "she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Well, of course she does - she's a woman of noble character! But what does all this mean for us imperfect, hapless housewives (or is that just me)? 

Well, for starters, it's important to note that just because this woman is noble does not mean that she's perfect. It means that she seeks God's will for her life, that she actively pursues holiness, and that she is determined to serve and support her husband. The fact that her husband lacks nothing of value has nothing to do with material possessions; rather, it means that he knows that her love is pure and reserved for him. She brings him good by building him up, supporting him, and inspiring him. 

In her book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn discusses some things we can do to demonstrate such love for our husbands. Here are two crucial examples:
  • Men need our respect more than they need our affection. Our husbands need to know that we respect their opinions, knowledge, decisions, and needs. They'd rather know for sure that we respect them than receive a million little displays of affection. (Chapter 2, Your Love is Not Enough)
  • Men may feel like "impressive imposters," meaning they may feel that they don't deserve success or recognition. We need to be sensitive to their fragility when it comes to their outward success. We should regularly encourage them, remind them of how proud we are, and build them up publicly. (Chapter 3, The Performance of a Lifetime)
There is so much more wisdom in this book! I highly recommend that every wife/bride-to-be read it ASAP. We will explore the other topics discussed in the book in the coming weeks. For now, I'd like to focus on the two mentioned above. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It's not just for divas; it's absolutely crucial to a man's self-esteem. For our husbands to have full confidence in us, they must first know that we respect them. This is non-negotiable ladies. If your marriage is struggling or your husband seems to react strangely to something you say/do, ask yourself if there's anyway he could feel a lack of respect. When you start looking at things through this lens, you will be amazed at how your relationship will change. The Proverbs 31 Wife respects her husband and he knows it. 

Secondly, it is important that we build our husbands up publicly. I'm not saying we should embarrass them with flowery ballads and flashy gifts. I'm saying we make the decision not to join in "bashing sessions," we refuse to criticize, tear-down, and otherwise degrade our husbands to others. You know what I mean. Those "girl chats" where everyone talks about every little annoying, nit-picky thing they can't believe their idiot husbands do. It's ok to vent to a close friend or family member when your marriage is struggling and you genuinely need support. It's not ok to tell everyone that will listen what a terrible husband he is because he works too much and doesn't help more with the kids. Although I genuinely try not to disparage my husband to others, I'm just as guilty as the next wife. The lesson here is that a Proverbs 31 Wife goes out of her way to encourage and esteem her husband in public, such that everyone else also sees that she respects him. 

This introduction hits on the key components to the Proverbs 31 Wife: she is of noble character and her husband is blessed by her respect and love. What seems like an intimidating opening is really a beautiful gem of marital advice. Pray for your husband. Encourage your husband. Respect your husband. If you can do these things, as oversimplified as they may seem, everything else will fall into place. In doing these things, you are pursuing God's will for your marriage. In pursuing God's will, you will indeed be a woman of noble character. It's all connected! 

I have to say I'm relieved. I don't have to be a flawless 5-carat ruby immediately or on my own. As I seek God and endeavor to love and respect my husband, God will mold me into a priceless woman of noble character. That's inspiring, not intimidating! Who's with me?!

Hapless but hopeful,

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