Why I hate Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31, yada yada yada…

I’ve often thought that if I were one of the disciples in the boat getting tossed around by a storm, Jesus asleep on a pillow, I might have been afraid with the rest of them, but then I would likely have shrugged, said to the disciples desperately trying to furl in the mainsail, “you guys deal with it,” gone to the back of the boat, held out a hand to Jesus and said, “pass the pillow.”

I don’t belong in America. I belong in some other culture – not a hot and difficult country where women walk miles with baskets and buckets of water balanced on their heads – but one of those cultures where people just, you know, sit around in each other’s homes and talk and then go to bed and sleep. Surely they exist, places like this, no?

My constitution is duly unfit for our hard working, forward thinking culture. I’m not one to rise early and “burn the lamp” late into the night. I look on other American women in shame. I volunteered to be a room mother once, as an understudy to a real Proverbs 31 woman, which meant that I could pretty much lie back, show up for stuff, lick icing from a cupcake, and let her do all the work because she loved making 24 nametags with turkeys on them, or at least I told myself this.

Okay, let me correct myself. All of this makes me sound lazy. In defense of me, first off, I’m an introvert, so my energy comes from being alone, and I need to read and stare at walls or my mind turns to mush (how odd…), and honestly, God is teaching me to spend a lot of time in prayer. So there’s that. And I do laundry. And make dinner most of the time, alright fifty percent of the time, or forty percent. Something like that. Whatever. Frozen pizza has the tomato sauce and someone once told me tomatoes are a vegetable or a fruit or something. Thank you Jesus.  

The one verse in that awful chapter of Proverbs that I have gravitated to is verse 25. …she laughs at the years to come. I would like that. Very much. No fear. Trust. But that would mean storing up purple linen and baking bread and in present day parlance, having one of those gigantic freezers in the basement filled with pork chops and lasagna. Lot’s of pork chops and lasagna would enable me to laugh at the days to come, but I just can’t get my butt to the grocery store and buy the freezer bags, much less label them and date them so that no one gets salmonella and ends up in the emergency room.

I’ve developed the habit of paging past that last horrifying chapter of Proverbs. The guilt can sink me. I fall way, way, short. I always give a wide berth to Joanne’s Fabric and can’t imagine ‘spinning wool’ or any madness of that sort. You might as well give me a bilateral mastectomy as send me looking for pillow inserts. When I was married, some well-meaning church lady who still dressed to the nines on Sundays gave me a framed print of Proverbs 31. I tolerated it for a few years then finally snatched it from the wall and stuck it in the garbage under the sink, which likely had a couple frozen pizza boxes folded into it and was in need of emptying.  

Last Sunday our pastor spoke on Proverbs 31. Oh, crap.

And then Rick passed me a note that changed my life forever.

It said, in his tiny barely legible handwriting that slants down to the right, the wife in Proverbs 31 is a metaphor for Wisdom. Capital W. My son, seek Wisdom. My children seek Wisdom. Wisdom “plants a vineyard (vs. 16)” and Wisdom’s “husband is known at the gates (vs. 23).” While I’m sure there’s intended meaning for literal women—because they are wise—caring for their families, Wisdom with a capital W, it makes sense to me. I can swallow that a lot easier than 24 Thanksgiving goodie bags for a classroom of kids.

Wisdom is personified as a woman. Throughout Proverbs Wisdom is present as a female entity. Why it’s a female entity, I could care less. What matters to me is that it’s not me.  

That ubiquitous wife who’s been at my heals ever since I said ‘I do’ isn’t in fact a wife at all, she’s Wisdom, and every husband (or wife or single person or child) will do well to remember that Wisdom provides the purple linen, the beautiful things that clothe us. The turkey name tags in America. Home-room mom, she’s not what any of us, or our husbands, should be aspiring to. Proverbs 31 tells us we should be sidling up to Wisdom. And if we really want it we really can have it. (James 1:5)

This. Wisdom gets up early, Wisdom sews purple cloth, Wisdom blesses us at the town gate. Wisdom allows us to laugh at the days to come. Perhaps because of the way God has made me, wisdom will come through thunderstorms that shake the windows and afternoons spent ‘scything’ at a state park.

Maybe Proverbs 31 will arrive at my door, purple linen in hand, beautiful and clear as its own perfect metaphor. I will open the door wide and offer her a glass of tap water because I don’t have anything else; I haven’t gone to the grocery store in a week. I’ll welcome her in because I’m already in a fit, confused and frustrated, having slept only 7 hours and not my optimum 9. She’ll sit me down and calmly explain that it’s not about me, it’s about her.