…A Woman Who Fears the Lord is to be Praised

My husband gifted me with a guest post for Mother’s Day. He has been an incredible encouragement in my spiritual life. I hope you will be challenged to dig deeper with this piece.

By Jake Vough

Happy Mother’s Day to all those out there who nurture and protect life.

I thought, given the day, I would give my wife a break, and try my hand at this blogging thing. Except all I did was try to sound coherent, she had to do all the hard work of correcting my grammatical errors and doing the magic which makes this appear on the internet. Anyhow…

At home here the last few weeks (years, really, but who is keeping track), my wife has been expounding on the attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman….and how they are unfairly placed on women and used in a way that most likely was not intended by the author (especially on days like Mother’s Day). Let’s face it, at one point or another, all scripture has been misinterpreted and used for someone’s personal gain. That’s why cults have great followings then fall apart shortly after. God will protect his Word.

However, I’m not here to have a long dissertation on the evils of misusing the Holy Scriptures (but maybe someday I will), I just wanted to discuss a passage from 1 Peter I picked out for today. I believe in reading the verses before and after the focal point to gain a full understanding of what the author was trying to say.

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her LORD. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:1-7 (NIV)

Now, just to be clear, there is a lot going on in this passage, and a lot I would like to break down, not necessary due to disagreement, but to help with clarity. I don’t have that much time and you don’t want to read that much today (again, maybe some other day). The verses I want to focus in on are 3-5. This is a passage that has gained meaning as I have aged (like a fine wine, just not as gracefully), but it is applicable for people of all ages, because in our society, world, and culture, the ideas portrayed in these verses have been flipped. You can have a horrible personality, but as long as you turn heads you’re still attractive. (Note: I don’t believe Peter is saying we should let ourselves go, we still need to tend to ourselves outwardly and present our temples in a way pleasing to God. We are made in his image and we need to honor that.) What Peter is trying to drive home here is the old saying we have heard over and over from our parents: it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

I was faced with a dilemma the other day, one of those dilemma’s where there is seemingly no correct answer.

My wife had another birthday recently (they just keep coming, why won’t they stop). As we were traveling back home from an evening out, she asked the question that caused my dilemma.

Do you prefer the ____ year old me (haha, not gonna tell you) or the 25 year old me?

Like the wise and experienced husband, I changed the subject. No way I was gonna answer that one.

But after reading these verses in Peter, I feel I can answer objectively. While the younger version had its perks, the “more experienced” version had time to more fully develop the attributes presented in this 1 Peter passage. And while I still appreciate the physical beauty, the inner beauty is the most important. And while we all have a desire to know that our spouse finds us physically attractive, it is equally, maybe even more important to know that they also find us spiritually attractive, which, according to v4, is of great worth in God’s sight.

At this point, you are probably starting to wonder what does this have to do with Proverbs 31?

The woman described in Proverbs was a very busy woman, but she and her family were also respected in the community. Why were they respected? Some will look at it and say it is all the hard work she has performed, referencing verses 10 – 24. In those verses, it is a list of all the tasks SHE has performed and a list of HER accomplishments.

In my eyes, she is a respected and revered individual because of the remaining verses, 25-30. (Verse 31 again references the work SHE performed and the praise given HER because of it). These verses give a list of her spiritual attributes and how her family honors her because of it. Strength and dignity, the ability to laugh at what lies ahead, wisdom, faithful instruction, family calling her blessed, these are not things she accomplished by herself, these attributes were given to her by God and developed through faithfully following his teachings. She most assuredly passed this wisdom on to her children and grandchildren (v 26).

This woman was no doubt beautiful in the eyes of her husband, but not just because of her physical appearance. At no point this list references her physical appearance. I feel, reading through Proverbs 31, her husband adored her because of her spiritual beauty (v.30), her children cherished her because of her spiritual strength and dignity (v.25), her community respected her because of her surpassing noble character (v.29) and they all learned from her because of her wisdom (v.26).

There is an ongoing discussion with the men around me about being a godly “manly man” within the church and what it means. In the same vein, it is important to have godly “womanly women” within the church. Between the Proverbs woman and the example in 1 Peter, is a great blueprint on how to be strong, faithful, and wise. Just as the church needs more “manly men” to teach the younger generations how to be strong yet gentle, firm yet soft, tough yet emotional, it needs more “womanly women” to teach the younger generations how to be gentle yet spiritually strong, soft yet faithfully firm, having emotions yet being tough.

This is the best way to further growth in the church, not just from the “butt in seat” aspect, but more importantly, in developing those already attending. We all need to continue to grow and learn daily to become better at being Children of God. You cannot expect to learn a trade without study and practice, the same is true of our walk with God and our ministry to those around us. But if we surround ourselves with like-minded people, our spiritual nature will grow and mature and we will become more confident in teaching and leading those around us.

Remember, you are Sarah’s daughters, do what is right and do not give way to fear (1 Peter 3:6). The Lord will walk with you and give you strength.

As a side note, I disagree with the middle statement of Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Beauty is not fleeting; it just changes its form in a God-fearing, spiritually-strong and inwardly attractive woman. And that kind of beauty should be what we all strive for (even guys) and it can never be taken away.

(Yes, I realize that in this particular passage, the intention is that the chasing after beauty is a vain pursuit. But, just like those cult leaders, that didn’t suit my narrative, so I had to change it to suit my needs.)

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