Finding role models
At Tyndale I continued to read through the Bible. I’d read completely through it once or twice before.
I’d always been heartened by Ruth, the “woman of valor,” daughter-in-law of Naomi.
The sensitivity and persistence of Hannah (Samuel’s mom).
Deborah the judge over Israel.
(Later I’d encounter a preacher or two with a goofy explanation: that Deborah was only judge because God couldn’t find a man. No one of the right character or wiling to do it.
Just FYI, that idea is absolutely nowhere – not one bit – supported in the book of Judges.
It also totally disregards the times our sovereign God changed the minds of reluctant leaders. Or when he used extremely flawed people in roles such as judge. If God needed a male judge, there would have been a male judge.
But he chose Deborah. And this was early on in the book of Judges. She is an example of faithful judges — before the land degenerated into total chaos and unrighteous judges.)
And the others
Later I would pick up on others. Or they would be pointed out by professors and leaders and pastors I knew.
How the priests under good king Josiah consulted Huldah. For wisdom and God’s guidance for the king and the nation.
Aksah (daughter of faithful Caleb!) taking initiative to ask for a water source in addition to their land inheritance.
And the insight of Samson’s mom, the wife of Manoah. (though both of his parents show some big flaws too!)
These are real people of course, not points in making a case. They aren’t made up for a point, but they’re a record of how men and women – like us – lived and were used by God.
Like us, they were sinful. Living in societies that got some things right and were woefully deficient in othes.
But seeing what was praised? – what characteristics were worthy of honour? That made an impression on me.
And no one more than the oft-misconstrued Proverbs 31 woman.
No butterflies, baby
I mean, I’d seen flowers-and-butterflies, curvy-scripted Proverbs 31 study guides. They had a sense of casserole about them. Usually they were accompanied by pictures of ladies overzealously smiling and a whole lot of floral, pink design.
And there’s a certain subset that loves that stuff.
It makes sense in a generic “let’s market this study guide to the largest segment of women” way.
It didn’t interest me.
I mean, I love making casseroles and baking stuff, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to have those skills and use them constantly! But the florals and the ladies-only message of these studies still doesn’t click well with me.
Then I read Proverbs 31. Actually read it.
And kept reading it. Over and over.
At least once a month.
There’s 31 chapters in Proverbs. One for each day of the month. I’ve long had a practice of reading one chapter of Proverbs each day.
I’ll pick out three verses are really standing out that day.. and one to apply to my life that day.
And although I switch it up sometimes, I’ve found great reward there.
Incredible principles. Good teaching. Solid judgment. And there’s always something to encourage me and something to correct in my life.
So as I read Proverbs 31 – over and over – it began to make an impression on me.
Here was a woman whose actions were praiseworthy.
Who did right. Within her family and era and context.
And Wisdom? She didn’t look much at all like butterflies or pink script.
Sharp as a tack
She got up early.
She stayed up late.
She used a machete to cut through red tape.. (no wait, that’s not it).
She was a provider.
She owned property purchased from her money.
She considers that property purchase, then modifies the property for long-term investment. (vineyards take a while).
She traded with profitability in mind.
She had a business of making a quality product and selling it locally.
She did physically demanding work. (So often we forget this part).
And this is barely scratching the surface. (The whole chapter is here. It’s really short.)
Let her works bring her honour in public, among the prominent people of the city.
Family and friends
Did she do this by neglecting family or community? By being career minded above all?
She’s introduced positively as a wife and its noted that every action brings benefit to her husband.
She spoke wisdom and faithfully instructed people.
Hm, I’d never heard about Biblical womanhood quite like this.
This lady has food prep done and work boots on.
Investments and delegation.
Wisdom and property smarts.
And while I’m not living in that culture and time (and like most of us, I don’t have a textile business or a husband in city government)
… it opened my eyes to seeing what God praised, vs what culture around me had praised.
Work and wisdom
Work outside the home wasn’t the last resort of a Godly woman.. it was here shown as a praiseworthy option. To the benefit of her marriage and family, not its detriment.
Wisdom wasn’t just the abstract personification of “lady Wisdom” in Proverbs… it was something I could aspire to.
And among those characteristics, wise teaching was one. Faithful instruction was another.
And at least in the Old Testament, I wasn’t just seeing women just teach their kids or other women.
But what about the New Testament? The rest of the Bible?
18. Females and finances
19. Two hundred bad sermons
20. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Female, and Not Alone
21. Strong arms or feeble hands?
22. Strength to strength