Does the Proverbs 31 woman have a name? I vote for “Mrs. Gets-on-Your-Nerves” or “Mrs. I-Have-NoFriends-Because-I’m-So-Perfect.” I know, I know. I shouldn’t think like that, but she is so squeaky clean it makes me want to oil her. Surely her joints must be stiff by now from holding everything together over the centuries. This gal needs a trip to a spa, a masseuse, or at least a visit to the local Jiffy Lube.
P-31 sounds like the wishful conjugating of a mother who wanted only the best of a woman’s qualities for her son. Bible scholars suggest that King Lemuel was Bathsheba’s name for Solomon. You know, a nickname like Lambie Pie or Dumpling. But the name Lemuel had deeper meaning (“belonging to God”). King Lemuel tells us in Proverbs 31 what his momma told him about the kind of cloth an excellent wife is cut from. It’s a heavenly fabric such as none of us has ever donned.
To be kind, I have to admit verses 10 through 31 list a number of worthy goals and a set of excellent standards for women. I know I need examples. In fact, some years ago (23 to be exact), I pleaded with the Lord to bring a woman into my life who would be a mentor, an example to me. His answer at that time was, “I’m not going to give you an example; I want you to become one.”
Don’t think that didn’t set my disorganized, unstable heart to palpitating wildly. I was more than willing to observe another woman living out truth, but to rise to the call of doing it myself—well, that was a mop of a different color. Believe me, a mop was the least of what it would take to clean up my act. I’m grateful that along the way the Lord eventually did send women who were excellent examples for me to learn from. But He also required me to continue to grow up.
In reality I already had examples in my life, but I hadn’t seen them for what they were. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. For me, it took time, healing, maturing, and personal experience before I realized what an example my mom had been. That insight came to me after I had stumbled over my fair share of personal failures that tenderized my heart and made me more merciful regarding others’ failures. You see, my mom didn’t do everything right, but once I forgave her for not being perfect, I realized she did far more right than wrong.
I encourage women today that, if they have issues with their moms, they resolve them as quickly as possible so they can enjoy their mothers and appreciate them. Before we know it, time flits by, and our mothers are no longer with us.
My mom might not have been perfect like Mrs. P-31, but she sure was handy with her hands. She could organize, customize, and economize. She could take a chicken and concoct a feast. And she could take a nickel and create a bankroll. I don’t know how she did what she did with what she had, but perhaps growing up in a large family on a farm, living through the Depression, and marrying a milkman gave her opportunity to be creative, versatile, resourceful, and industrious. Just like you-know-who, “Mrs. Got-It-All-Together-P-31.”
Occasionally, I meet women who appear to have it all together, but on closer inspection (the old white-glove test), seldom is that true. I can say across the board that the people I’ve met are just that—people. They sometimes waste time, break the bank, burn the bacon, spew anger, and lose their way.
But that’s what is so wearing about Mrs. P-31; no weaknesses are noted. This I know: If she does exist, I don’t want to live beside her. I beat myself up enough already, thank you. You see, some days I leave lipstick in my jacket pocket and then launder the jacket, glazing my washing machine and dryer in Mambo Mauve. Other days I mail our taxes without the check in the envelope. The government, which has no humor, frowns on this. And then I scorch supper beyond recognition. (Actually, we aren’t always sure what it was before I burned it.) So I’m not a P-31, or even a B-42 because I can hardly get off the ground to get my day going.
I console myself that I’ve made progress and, dear sisters, if I understand this journey correctly, measurable, loving progress is what it’s all about. P-31, in all her perfection, is an ideal to strive toward. We won’t reach her heights, but we’re bound to be better just for trying, as long as we don’t become tied to the earth by legalistically attempting to be perfect.
Proverbs 31 highlights wonderful ways a woman can effectively and even eternally reach out to others. Six times in this famous passage, hands are mentioned, and many more times they are implied, suggesting the incredible influence of a woman’s touch.
I find I must first reach up before I can effectively reach out. So take my hand and let’s call on Him together. With His help, we can change our world even if we are less than perfect.
“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivers girdles unto merchants” (Proverbs 31:24).
Evidently P-31 was quite the seamstress. Repeated references are made not only to her designing clothes for her family and for the marketplace, but also to her enjoyment of the activity. She was creative and happy to be so. Proverbs 31:13 says she worked willingly with her hands.
Now I, too, work with my hands in delight, but you can bet your loose buttons you won’t find me zipping along on my Singer. Actually, the only stitching machine I own is my Mamaw’s treadle, and I’m not certain where it is. Possibly it’s encased in silken spider threads in the storage shed. No, a seamstress I’m not.
Hands to the Task: A Prayer
“Lord, You knew all along how important and how deeply satisfying it would be for a woman to use her hands to touch others’ lives, whether that be crocheting a tablecloth or cleansing a wound. You created us with hands that we might work, mend, design, adorn, embrace, serve, cuddle, assure, lift, pray, and praise. The possibilities for our outreach appear endless. How thrilling for us!
“But sometimes there is more to do than time allows. Prioritize our efforts as You direct our steps. We don’t want to spread our offerings so thin that no one benefits. We want our touch to heal, soothe, unite, and restore.
“When others look at the fruit of our labor, may it be sweet, appealing, and beneficial. We want to reach out in loving ways like our Proverbs 31 example, who put hands to her faith and enriched all whom she touched.
“Sometimes that which needs to be done is so unappealing. Help us to be dedicated to the work at hand regardless of how distasteful it might be. For we are confident that, if You gave it to us to tend, You have purposes beyond what we see. May no task be too menial or too mammoth for us to put our hand to it with faithful determination. If You find us hesitant, may we be reminded of Your hands, Your nail-pierced hands that reach out to us. Amen.”
I’m more into Velcro affixing, staple gunning, or push pinning (a tad uncomfortable with a hemline, though). My hands-on work is more in the arenas of decorating, gardening, and Scrabble (that’s work?), although I have been known to hand over loans (miniscule) and hand out advice.
When you think about it, hands are a wonderful part of our anatomy. We can applaud others; hold someone else’s hand; embrace our mom, sweetheart, or baby; extend our hands in friendship; wave; beckon; make music; and even whistle louder with them. The possibilities are endless.
Hands are lovely, even old hands. I loved tracing my grandmother’s periwinkle veins as they ribboned around under her paper-thin skin. Thanie died at 97 years old, and her hands had given and received much throughout her lifetime. I remember watching her in my childhood as she smoothed the pages of her Bible, to which she turned in her search for added wisdom. And with fondness I recollect her hands preparing oatmeal and toast with dollops of her homemade peach preserves, which she served to me, her eager, drooling granddaughter.
I love babies’ hands with their chubby little digits. Their fingers reach to grasp rattles, hanks of hair, and earrings as they dangle precariously from one’s elongated earlobes. Their hands trust ours to steady them as we guide them into their solo steps. Eventually we teach them to grasp a bat, toss a ball, and tie a bow. And before long, they teach us a few things, like handing over our car keys and cash. (I believe this is when we begin pulling out our own hair.) And they call this the circle of life?
A sweet memory for me is my mom ironing. She could have taught lessons on it at the university because her ironing was a work of art. She even refrigerated it. She would fill a basin with a starch solution, soak doilies, roll them, refrigerate them, and then iron them into submission. She would fool with the ruffles until each one stood in peaked perfection. And you should have seen her press curtains, draperies, and bedspreads until they were pleated or mashed just as she wanted them. Yes, Mom worked with her hands in delight—both hers and ours.
My son Jason brags that he received an A in ironing in high school. Now, I’ve never actually seen any of his handiwork, but I know he doesn’t refrigerate it. At least I’ve never seen any of it parked between the peanut butter and the hot dogs in our fridge. His wife, Danya, assures me she hasn’t noticed him, in their three years of marriage, huddled over an ironing board either, or even walking near by. But he’s a good son and a fine husband, and Danya and I give him an A also . . . for handing out far-fetched lines that keep us giggling.
Giggling is what filled our home years ago when I inadvertently stitched my husband’s pant legs together. He couldn’t deny that I had mastered a severe stitch, restricting any hope of entry.
Speaking of entry, I remember the entrance of one Jason Robert Clairmont into our lives on April 22, 1974. This momentous occasion called for a few stitches, too, if my memory serves me well. His daddy was so pleased, he almost popped his buttons but knew I couldn’t sew them back on. The doctor handed us our son, who touched our hearts and changed our lives.
I love being a woman, and I’m grateful for the privilege of being a mom as well. I may not sew so well, but I have mended my share of broken toys. I don’t iron like my mom, but I have offered a hand during pressing times. And I’ve learned through the years and the tears the importance of smoothing out the wrinkles in my life with wisdom from the Scriptures—even P-31.