The Virtuous Woman Sets Her Priorities

The Virtuous Woman Sets Her Priorities

I have succumbed to the classic lie that nearly every woman believes at least once in her existence. I am not enough. Lately I’ve been fighting this lie standing up, laying down, and often with a flailing 1 ½ year old in my arms, for months.

Life has been really hard for a while. Our family business is struggling because of some poor decisions our landlord has made. My husband is more often than not putting out fires at our shop in the after-hours than home with our family. I’m still working on regaining my health from my postpartum complications and learning to except the physical and emotional scars that experience has left. Our marriage has suffered after having to deal with one crisis after another. I’m trying to hold up the physical, emotional, and financial strain of my present life with one hand and trying to care for my son, my husband, and my many other responsibilities with the other. I’m more likely to feel like a failure than a success.

That’s when I started questioning if I’m really putting what energy I have into the right things. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all. What was God calling me to in this onerous season of life? I was led to study Proverbs 31. What does this “Virtuous Woman” have that I don’t have? What is she doing that I am missing? How is she finding success in her many ventures? The answers surprised me a little. Join me as I walk through answering these questions in this two-part series.

She Has Her Priorities Straight

The “Proverbs 31 woman,” “excellent wife,” “virtuous woman;” we’ll call her “Aretha” – a Greek name meaning “virtuous” (and you have to admit, Aretha Franklin is pretty cool, too [I definitely started writing this before she passed away, God rest her soul!]) – keeps her priorities in line. Husband, family, and then everyone else get her care and attention, in this order, all the while depending on God’s help above and throughout everything else.

Marriage

Aretha’s marriage is her first priority. This is something we all get wrong. Men tend to err on the side of “other people” (i.e. working to provide for his family) and women tend to err on the side of family, particularly if she has children to care for. Crossing off things on her to-do list so that her family has what they need to be successful is in Aretha’s innate nature. However, when “two become one,” if your marriage is not working well, it’s harder to love and care for others well. You are not exemplifying the unity of Christ to one another, to your children, and to your other family, friends, neighbors, and employees. This reduces your effectiveness in all other areas of your life.

10 An excellent wife who can find?

   She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

   and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

   all the days of her life…

23 Her husband is known in the gates

   when he sits among the elders of the land.

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

   her husband also, and he praises her.

A woman like Aretha is a rarity and her husband knows it, he cherishes her, not just because the word commands it (Ephesians 5:22-33), but because he’s in awe that he actually get to be her husband. He trusts her. Trust like his does not come without intentional relationship and intimacy. She is consistent in her respect for him, both when she’s with him and when she’s away from him. He is a better person because Aretha is in his life. He knows it and their community knows it. She is a big reason why he is looked up to in their community. She represents him and their marriage well when she is conducting her business throughout the city. The fact that he is known at the gates is a really big deal!

“Now the gates were an important place of a city, for the gates were the place of judgment. When persons had any kind of business to transact, legal business and all, they would always come into the gates of the city, and the men who sat in the gates of the city were the renowned men of the city and they would come to them for judgments. Her husband is known in the gates. He sits along the elders of the land.” – Chuck Smith

Likewise, verse 31 says, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” So, it seems her husband and those he congregates with at the gates all speak her praises. It goes both ways.

When my husband and I first started dating and talking about marriage, I wanted to find out if he really was as great as he seemed. I didn’t know him super well, but what I did know seemed too good to be true. As I spoke to mutual friends who knew him well, they couldn’t find enough good things to say about him. It seemed that what I saw was who he really was. Over the past 6 ½ years of our marriage, I’ve continued to hear time and time again how much he’s respected and looked up to. People are often coming to him for advice. Now that he’s running a business, I hear quite regularly how he’s impacted people’s lives through how he conducts his business.

I recently found out that my husband praises me often to people who come through our shop to both people who know me and customers I have yet to meet. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I am grateful to know the admiration is not one-sided. Praying through this passage has made me want to be more intentional about putting my husband and my marriage before anyone else.

Children

Aretha would do literally anything for her children. Little else makes her feel more emotions in a day than they do. Aside from her relationship with God, her solid relationship with her husband and his involvement in their upbringing makes her the best mother she can be. Seeing her husband and children happy, well cared for, and sufficiently provided for drives her daily activities. One of her deepest callings is to see her children’s emotional, spiritual, and physical needs met on a daily basis.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

   for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

   and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

   her husband also, and he praises her.

This is a challenging area for Aretha. It’s often said that parenthood is a thankless job. It’s especially true in Andrew’s and my stage of life because our son isn’t old enough to verbalize his gratitude. Parents have to know their children well enough to see their gratitude, because they often don’t offer it willingly. The fact that Aretha’s children “call her blessed” means she is really doing something right!

Everyone Else

It’s apparent that Aretha is a very caring person who looks out for her community, starting with those closest to her and extending to those less fortunate than her. It seems she has a busy household.

15 She rises while it is yet night

   and provides food for her household

   and portions for her maidens.

20 She opens her hand to the poor

   and reaches out her hands to the needy.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

   and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Aside from her husband and children, she also has maidens (aka servants) in her household to care for. She makes sure that they are treated well and start their day with a fortifying meal. It’s not often you hear of someone rising early to make sure their servants are fed before the workday has begun, but Aretha does just that. While most people I know do not have servants in their household, we do often pay people for services everywhere we go, whether in our home or out in the community. Having worked in many service industries throughout my life – retail, food, hospitality, and automotive – I can tell you that I often went unappreciated and have become a sounding board for someone’s frustration many times.

I’ve also had other people (volunteers or employees) in my charge to whom I was responsible to delegate tasks and projects. No matter whether we are wealthy like Aretha, or simply navigating the modern world around us, we are called to go above and beyond to be the light of Christ to everyone we encounter. We are called to humble ourselves, to serve a meal to those who are under our employ, to arrive at work before everyone else, to take out the trash – even if we are the CEO of the company. By working with the mindset of Christ, who was called to serve rather than be served, we are spreading the gospel with our actions.

Aretha’s husband, then children, then everyone else have their rightful place in her life. By giving the right time and attention to each in its place, she’s able to love and serve them all well through the Spirit of God who guides her. She’s also good at managing all the moving parts in her life – her family and business ventures, those who help her, and her personal relationship with God. In the second part of this series we’ll delve into what that looks like and get to the bottom of what makes her “enough.”

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