She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
So far I’ve been writing to you about concepts and character. Things like trust and words and carefulness and goodness.
In this letter I want to veer off for just a bit and talk about some of the things a wise woman does to make a man’s life easier and better— that whole helping aspect of a woman.
As you well know, I believe that the Book of Beginnings— Genesis— sets the premise for the role of a wife in a man’s life. She is designed to fit into her husband’s vision and calling as a “help-mate” or a “corresponding” partner.
Unfortunately, teachers from generations past have tried to micro-manage the role of a wife and have often come up with a one-size-fits-all approach to what a wife ought to do. Many have drawn a picture of a June Cleaver-like woman, using Proverbs 31 as a structured pattern that every woman ought to follow precisely at every moment of her adult life until death gives her a break! In doing this, we have crafted the Perfect Wife.
And let me tell you, Matt, we women despise this Perfect Wife! We know we can’t possibly live up to her ever-industrious and at the same time always-nice perfection. The idea of accomplishing everything listed here and at the same time looking always beautiful and together and being nice and successful gives us nightmares. We want to run and hide or give up in despair.
But I don’t think that’s what Lemuel’s mother meant at all when she listed some of the doings of this woman. I think she was simply pointing out to her son how much a woman of worth could and would benefit his life as a leader in his kingdom. She was steering him away from a beautiful bimbo who would simply smile and look sexy but leave him without the help his life and career so desperately needed. She wanted him to know and recognize a woman who puts her intelligence and skills to work in order to sort of grease the wheels of his stress-filled life and make everything run better.
Titus 2 gives us a similar pattern. Older women are instructed to train younger women in the management skills necessary for the running of a household in real time. A woman who does this well is able to free up a man to pursue his career fervently while avoiding the train wreck that so often happens when home is neglected at the expense of career or ministry.
In our current culture that might take any number of forms, according to the unique gifting of the woman, and the unique needs of the man. One of your roles as a husband will be to “cherish” your wife (Ephesians 5:29). I think that means that you will set out to discover her gifts and strengths and help her to craft her role as your wife accordingly.
You help her to see and value who she is.
You celebrate her unique contribution to your life.
But here’s what to look for: a woman who is eager, who is surging forward with initiative and drive, a woman who delights in doing, who loves her role as helper, who is creative and innovative and confident that she can accomplish what is good and best for her family. The kind of woman who goes the extra mile instead of settling for the easiest thing.
Who does whatever she does well and beautifully, with eagerness and delight.
How will you know? Unless she is already running a household, how will you identify these traits, these doings in a woman while you are dating? Well, here’s my to-be-expected list…
1. Look at her space
By that I mean any place she has control over. Is it lovely? Has she created beauty? Are there indications of extra care, special touches?
2. Look at her work
Does she simply show up and do what is expected or is she the kind of woman who adds immeasurably to her work? Do you see her make everyone at work (both clients and coworkers) comfortable? Is she trying to help?
3. Look at her downtime
Is she creative? Does she learn and educate herself in what interests her? Does she have dreams and ideas?
4. Look at her self-care
Believe it or not, Matt, it takes a good deal of work for most women to look beautiful. There are few “natural beauties”. Most beautiful women have made the effort to cultivate their beauty. Is she clean and soft and developing a style that suits who she is? Does she match on the outside what she’s like on the inside?
5. Look at the way she gives.
Does she leave a trail of loveliness behind her? Gifts and cards beautifully thought through, acts of generosity and kindness on purpose, that little bit of extra help to anyone who is fortunate enough to be her friend?
Again, these are all traits I see in your sisters.
Tammy is an artist. She creates beauty in John Mark’s life, soothes the owies of her children and friends alike, finds something lovely to say every time I see her. Rebekah is the best gift-giver I’ve ever met. The Jetson’s DVD’s for Dad’s Father’s Day, a just right book of poetry and a picnic in the park for me, a whole luxurious house cleaning for her sister just because she had a little extra from all her hard work and she wanted her to know she’s there for her… And Elizabeth, who gives by cooking the good stuff and then taking all the time you need to listen well and answer wisely.
All of them, eager doers, givers, women who bring delight into the lives of those they love. That’s the kind of girl to look for, Matthew. Because she’ll bring you more than a little help— she’ll bring you all that she is.
From my heart,