My life has had so many moving parts lately, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, awake or asleep. Between my marriage, motherhood, our family business, housekeeping, and many other responsibilities, it’s so easy to feel vanquished. “I’m not enough!” is a phrase I often cry out in defeat at the end of the day. After being overwhelmed by this feeling time and again, I was lead to study Proverbs 31 and found that the thematic difference between the Virtuous Woman (whom I’ve named Aretha) and myself is that she knows she’s enough.
In part one I explored how she prioritizes her life in order to love and serve her husband, children, and community well. Everyone in her life having their place gives her the ability to have everything in a productive order.
She’s A Wise Manager
From the first time I read this passage, I have always been overwhelmed by all the things Aretha seems to accomplish. It really seems like she’s a superwoman! I’ve heard every explanation for her vast accomplishments from, “this couldn’t possibly be one woman, but a conglomerate of multiple women,” to “she’s not real, but a idealistic representation of a godly woman.” I don’t believe either of those explanations are necessary because I believe that women like Aretha exist. I have met them and known them. Yes, her accomplishments are impressive, and I bet Aretha even gets overwhelmed by her schedule at times, but she doesn’t fall into the pressure to do it all at once. She is organized and plans her activities in a way that is healthy for her and her family.
She Follows the Seasons
The more I studied this passage verse by verse, it became clear to me that the order of the verses was based on the acrostic structure of the poem rather than chronological order of her activities. Especially when it comes to her commercial pursuits, she works in seasons. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible for her to accomplish everything. She doesn’t just decide over the course of one day to buy a field, plant it, harvest the crop, barter with merchants, spin her thread, weave her garments and then sell them in town.
Having grown up in an agricultural community where many of my friends and classmates were from farming families, I have a pretty good idea how the seasons work for people who make their living off of the land. First she takes time to consider the field, most likely in the winter when the field isn’t being worked. Because she and her husband have such a trusted relationship, they probably take time to discuss it together. After she buys it, she oversees the planting process in the spring, managing the crops throughout the summer. She then probably uses the money from the fall harvest to buy the wool and flax to spin the thread. She spins and weaves in the winter and has her wares available for sale throughout the spring and summer.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
She Has Help
People who are as accomplished as Aretha don’t attempt to do it on their own. The biggest difference between Aretha and I is our financial and social standing. The symbolism of the colors (scarlet and purple – vv 21, 22) in which she clothes her family are dead giveaways that Aretha and her husband are wealthy. If they weren’t, her husband wouldn’t be counted among the elders at the gates of the city. Part of what makes her so good at what she does is the people under her employ that help her to do it.
It is quite clear that she has house servants (vs 15). I have to believe she also has field hands. She probably also has employees for her textile business as well. Her success is evidence of her being, not just a hard worker, but a good manager as well.
Not all of us are in a position to hire help for our daily tasks. However, we do need to be courageous enough to ask for help when appropriate (and it’s appropriate more often than you think!). We love to help others – especially if we’re following Jesus because the Holy Spirit prompts us to – but who are we supposed to help if no one ever asked for help?
Yes, she puts her hand to the plow (vs 16), to the distaff and spindle (vs 19), and dones a needle in order to clothe her children (vs 21). This is what makes her a good manager – she’s willing to work alongside her workers. She knows her maidens, her field hands, and her weavers. Her success with her vinyard, her textile business, and her household are evidence that, not only is she a great manager of her time and her employees, but that she’s also a very hard worker and an excellent servant leader.
Over All, She Worships
I was raised in a works focused, “just try harder” mindset. While Aretha covers a lot of ground in her daily activities, there’s one theme woven through her life that I often miss – her relationship with God. She locks in time in her schedule for self-care and spiritual growth.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
She does what she needs to do to get enough rest and make her mind and body strong. This doesn’t mean there aren’t long late nights during busy seasons, but she knows that if she doesn’t get adequate rest, exercise, and healthy food, she isn’t going to function at her best to be successful in her many endeavors.
She also makes sure to clothe herself just as well as she clothes everyone else in her household. You don’t catch Aretha wearing unflattering sweats, a t-shirt, and crazy hair to the market, and definitely not when she is with her husband (this is something I struggle with and verse 22 has been convicting!). But, it goes so much deeper than the clothes she wears on the outside – Aretha also forms her character with “strength and dignity.” She doesn’t just present herself well as though she were play-acting while in the face of others; she really is all these wonderful things deep down in her soul. She dresses herself on the outside to exemplify the beauty she is on the inside.
That’s why verse 26 really struck me. The word “teaching” in the original Hebrew, “towrah,” refers to messianic (aka of the messiah) and Mosiaic Law (aka the Laws God gave to Moses). So, her speech is an overflow of the scriptures she has so deeply ingrained in her heart. It’s genuine, honest, and true as well as kind and loving.
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:43-44
We can work hard, check off everything on our to-do list, put on a charming personality and dress ourselves to the nines, but if our heart isn’t first for our Savior, Jesus Christ, everything else is chasing after the wind. What it boils down to is that Aretha knows she is enough because she surrenders herself to the Lord God. Everything she does is not to impress her husband and community, to provide for her children, and to make a profit. It is a calling the Lord has given her to serve Him and His children. She does it out of the joy of knowing she is enough, rather than to become enough.