“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:21-31, KJV).
As I sit at my computer tonight and think over the last four months of our study through Proverbs 31, I’m rather sad to end it. I suppose that a writer always learns more than maybe you readers do, because I’ve had to dig into each phrase and wrestle with it, seeking to apply it to my own life. Honestly, the Holy Spirit is often quite brutal with me, reminding me that I shouldn’t write something if I don’t “practice what I preach.”
I think back to a day almost 9 years ago, when I sat in my living room and wrestled with these same verses. I was so convicted by the fact that I hated being a wife and mom, I hated housework and all it stood for, and I hated the thought that my life stretched out ahead of me with no end in sight, filled with dishes and diapers and other despicable things.
I knew God’s Word must have an answer to my depression, but when I read about the excellent wife of Proverbs 31, I only got more discouraged. What kind of answer was this? It sounded like work from sun-up to sun-down.
But these last few verses drew me in a way I couldn’t explain.
“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all…”
“What was so excellent about being a housewife?” I ranted. “How could she even enjoy such a life?”
“A woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised…”
To be very honest, praise was probably the only reason I ever even looked at these verses. I craved praise (from people, not from God), but the way my house looked, most people would have run away in panic. Laundry was literally piled on every surface, sprinkled with a few dirty diapers that I hadn’t bothered to throw away. The dishes hadn’t been washed in several days, and no beds were made. I wore “comfortable” clothes and never bothered with make-up (except to church, of course… to look good for others).
“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates…”
But I was tired of being embarrassed… tired of seeing the discouragement in my husband’s eyes… tired of letting the kids play with no responsibilities while I scrubbed at dried-on food… tired of the smell… tired of the depression that accompanies such a lifestyle. I hadn’t grown up like this! My mom was a great homemaker! Yet I could see that the “fruit” of my hands was paying me back for my laziness. This fruit didn’t taste so good.
I can remember the very moment when I almost made a dare with God.
“God,” I prayed, “If these verses are true, than happiness won’t come from running away from the circumstances where you’ve placed me. I hate housework, and I have no idea how to do a good job at it. But–“ (and a shiver of excitement ran through me) “If your Word is true, and I did my best instead of my worst, would you turn my house around? Would you help me learn to enjoy this job? (Ug!) Would you help me learn to excel at it?”
God’s Spirit reminded me that if I were to meditate on His laws day and night, He would help me to flourish like a tree planted by rivers of water (see Psalm 1).
So I hand copied all these verses from Proverbs 31 (verses 10-31) on a dog-eared piece of notebook paper and scotch-taped it over my kitchen sink, with some verses from the New Testament on the second side. Gritting my teeth and reading these verses over and over, I dug into those crusty dishes. It took awhile to get them all done, and then I tackled laundry. Day after day went by, and I had plenty of setbacks, but God was true to His Word. (I still have setbacks sometimes!)
My goal now is to excel! I want to excel for the praise of my Father in heaven, but I also look forward to the day when my husband and children also give God the praise for the transformation He did in my life. May He truly receive all glory, because without His precious Word, my natural inclination would be to disintegrate into grime and grit.
So how about you? What is the most convicting verse for you in this passage? How has God been transforming you, planting you by those rivers of blessing? I’d love to hear your stories!