Sunday, May 13, 2012

Being THAT Kind of Girl

I concluded my Mothers' Day tribute to my grandmother
 with some favorite passages of scripture.

In no big surprise, they were from the most familiar chapter of Proverbs, chapter 31. Like most of you, I love that chapter in the Bible. Like most of you, I've studied it and read it and even memorized a part or two. Like most of you, I use it when I want to extol the virtues of an  aproned saint who has gone before me.

I tend to consider it to be the most distinctly feminine passage in scripture.
Like most of us do...

But what if we have it all wrong?

What if that oft quoted passage isn't a tribute to a mother from a son at all. What if it's really wise counsel from a mother to a son. Not just any old son either, but a son who would grow up to be King. That's what it says, after all, when you start at the very beginning.

The sayings of King Lemuel, an oracle his mother taught him...
~Proverbs 31:1

In the verses that follow, the Queen Mum gives him all sorts of advice, starting with a warning against that kind of woman. Oh, she doesn't give a lot of detail about her. Apparently, she thinks her son will know her when he sees her. She's that kind of woman you know...the kind that zaps his strength... the kind that ruins kings.

She goes from there to some of the wisest words 
about royal responsibility ever written.

Speak for those who have no voice...
Defend the destitute...
Judge fairly.

Then in verse 10, the focus seems to shift. It does in my translation anyway. It seems to move from motherly advice to the future King to an epilogue of sorts, and epilogue we like to call The Praise of the Virtuous Woman.

There's just one problem with that. The text actually has no shift.  There is no more break between verses 7 and 8 than there is between verses 9 and 10. There's absolutely no reason to believe that what we call The Virtuous Woman isn't a continuation of that maternal advice.

That certainly makes more sense.  Mom starts with the warning about the wrong kind of woman for her son. Doesn't it stand to reason that a wise mother would finish with a description of the right kind?  

Yeah, I think so too.

The wise mother doesn't waste her time defaming the wrong girl. She spends her time, a great deal of time, praising the right one and teaching her son about the things he should look for in a woman. (I'll save you the time looking: A dazzling smile and drop dead figure aren't in there. Neither is a reserved seat at the cool table.)

No, his mother sums up this ideal girl in verse 10.

A virtuous woman, who can find? 
Her worth is far above rubies...

A virtuous woman. Two simple Hebrew words that pack the punch.  Obviously, one of them is woman or wife, but do you know what the other one means?  It doesn't mean virtuous, or excellent, or capable. It doesn't mean of noble character.

The word חַיִל  means strong. It's the word for strength, power, and might, an especially warlike valor. 

Yep. The wise mother teaches her son to find a woman who is willing and able to fight.  
Not against him, of course, but with him and for him. 

That's because the minute we begin to build that thing called a Christian family, Satan declares war.  It's going to be a continual battle against the powers of darkness in this world, and a wise Christian mother doesn't want her son to go it alone. She teaches him to seek and find a strong woman.

Not the kind who ruins Kings...

From there, she extols the virtues of that strong woman in the most powerful maternal advice ever given.

On this Mother's Day morning, I have a question for the mothers and grandmothers out there.  Have you studied, carefully studied,  this passage with the young people in your lives, both girls and boys?  Maybe you're leaving it up to chance, merely trying to be the Proverbs 31 Woman in hopes that one day they'll rise up and call you blessed. 

Is that really good enough for your kids?
It's not good enough for mine.

As for me, I want my girls to cultivate those virtues worthy of the King, and I pray that there are Christian mothers out there raising their princes to settle for nothing less. Are you one of them?

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD 
She is to be praised. 

Comments off for Sunday
Happy Mother's Day

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