Wednesday, March 26, 2008

the proverbs 31 ideal

for approximately 15 years i have struggled with the ideal woman described in proverbs 31 – more accurately, i’ve been struggling to reconcile that ideal with the feminist “theologies” i’ve been indoctrinated with my entire life. only recently have i begun to see and practice how these two ideals mesh, and how the proverbs 31 woman really is my feminist ideal.

i would hazard a guess that most women raised by baby boomer parents (especially somewhat liberal, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, protestant work ethic parents) were given the same backbone that i was. maybe not and maybe to a lesser degree. my sister and i were raised to be strong, independent women. we were taught that the fact that we were girls should not ever discourage us from attempting and doing anything and everything we ever wanted to do. my father was a carpenter and engineer, so we grew up spanking nails, ripping plywood, making designs and plans and pouring concrete; we watched my mother and father lay tile together. my mother was a stay-at-home mom with a degree in home economics and a teaching credential, so we learned to sew and cook and plan meals and run a household. between the two of them, there was nothing we couldn’t do.

because of that attitude, i now sew obsessively, not only for pleasure – but also because i can make higher quality clothes for myself (and items for my home) for less money than i can purchase them. i make my own soap, because i figured if a big company can make it (and people did it all the time back 200 years ago) why not me? i wanted a “shelf” under my bathroom sink but could not find anything i liked so i decided to make exactly what i wanted. it took me 10 minutes and $3.74. i have fulled accepted the “why can’t i?” attitude that my parents instilled in.

the proverbs 31 woman (and 1 corinthians 3:18 – the verse that commands wives to submit to their own husbands) presents a challenge to this independent, feminist attitude, because she encourages us to be pleasant always and serve our husbands. she seems to slave away all day – she works all day, then comes home and cooks dinner and cleans the house. excuse me? serve? submit? independent feminist women do not serve nor submit, nor do they slave away for some man or put on a happy face just so their men will think everything is all right.

as i’ve matured and settled into my marriage especially, i’ve come to realize that there is no struggle between the proverbs 31 woman – nor the submission of 1 corinthians – and the independent woman. a more careful reading and application of proverbs 31 indicates that the woman is strong and independent. she works hard for the benefit of her family and takes care of her husband and children. in this respect, i work hard for my husband so that i am not a burden to him. the knowledge that i contribute equally to our home encourages him to work hard as well, and he is not burdened by the entire responsibility for our survival.

likewise, i try to put on a happy face for my husband. it’s not always easy and i am so far from the perfect wife, but i’m learning that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. i can share my concerns and fears and frustrations with nagging or being a bitch. (i can… but i don’t always do.) and even when i’m not 100% happy or satisfied, being pleasant makes my husband happy and pleasant, which does make me happy.

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