This morning, I read Proverbs 31. Mother’s Day is approaching. I have the significant women in my life on my mind – my wife, Jan and my daughter, Anna. Years ago, Jan and I had a conversation where I asked her how she wanted to live her life and express her gifts and talents. I have supported that decision for the last 35 years as we have lived that definition together.
Recently, I told my single daughter how proud I was of her to have not let the cultural models of Christian womanhood dictate how she would live her life. Both of these significant and unique women express the freedom of a choice they made with God’s leading and permission. They are both beautiful and dangerous. They are beautiful because they are being uniquely defined by God and they are dangerous because they both have broken the molds of what it means to be a woman of faith.
As I read Proverbs 31 – a text that has been promoted as the pinnacle of Christian womanhood – I am bit uncomfortable. If I were a woman, apart from the wonderful character qualities expressed in this chapter, I am not sure I would want to follow that model. I would be somewhat confused about my role as a woman of faith especially having read the New Testament where women traveled with Jesus, ministered alongside Paul as spiritual equals and did all the same things the men did who followed the Spirit’s leading. My confusion would be further affirmed when I read Paul words to the Galatians, “There is not longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
While the image of the Proverbs 31 woman is admirable, it also sounds like a prison, of sorts. Again, not the beautiful character traits of this woman, but the one-size-fits-all model it promotes. I write this as a man, not as a woman. So please bear with me as I process these thoughts from the opposite gender. So much changed after the Cross. Serving each other has never gone out of style, nor did giving permission for some women to faithfully serve their husbands and families just like the woman in Proverbs 31 who accomplished all her daily tasks so her husband could sit at the city gates and be well-respected.
Proverbs 31 is not the only model of life for women. It is not transferable to every woman. In our family I am the one who rose before dawn this morning to cook Jan her breakfast so she could do some of the things that express her calling in ways beyond a limited definition of an Old Covenant model of womanhood.
With Mother’s Day approaching maybe the greatest gift we could give a woman on this special day, whether single or married – with children or not – would be to ask them how they would like to live their lives and then wrap that decision as a gift and give it to them.