by Cheryle M. TouchtonDo you ever feel unworthy? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be like the “Worthy Woman” described in Proverbs 31. A commercial, popular years back sang, “We bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never never let him forget that he is a man!” I don’t remember their product but the mocking melody and words haunted me. Women watched that commercial with varied reactions of inspiration and indignation. Liberated women screamed, “We don’t have to cook!” Other voices quickly reminded us that we did not have work outside the home. In the meantime, I spent my days trying to balance children, marital romance, and a career while trying to find time for a waning spiritual life. I looked at the model woman in Proverbs 31 and often ended up feeling more like an Unworthy Woman.
Have you checked out the Proverbs 31 woman lately? She could have made that commercial I referenced above. Our role model sewed, planned, shopped, took care of her home, conducted profitable business transactions, managed a staff, dressed well, spoke with wisdom, and was adored by her husband and children. As if that wasn’t enough, this “Paragon of Virtue” had a sense of humor, taught, was in shape, was famous, and even made her bed. She was worth more than rubies. So why was it that when I missed work for the important children’s event, I wondered if I was worthy of my paycheck and if I missed the children’s event, I fretted that I deserved to mark my children with a stamp that said, “return to sender”? Over the years, I’ve come to terms with being a Worthy Woman and I thought you might be interested in the twists and turns of my trying to live up to the role model presented by God.
My Hero - The Worthy Woman
10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:10-31 NIV
As a Christian woman, I knew to strive to be like this woman while wondering if it was possible. No wonder I was so tired! Surely this woman did not have to deal with doctors, day care, bosses, parking, e-mail, texts, and grocery lines. I sighed when I read that she began her day early and worked into the night. Self-esteem plummeted as I looked at my growing “to-do” lists. Guiltily, I would realize that I had skipped my Bible Study once again. Each day, I promised myself that tomorrow would be better before I collapsed into bed.
I’d wake up the next morning and take heart. The scripture admitted (verse 10) that finding such a woman is rare. I rationalized that if there weren’t that many Worthy Women running around, maybe God didn’t really expect it of me. At that point, super-hero comic books came to mind. Possibly, this woman was the Biblical version of Wonder Woman. I fantasized that I could be like her. Maybe I really could be the one Worthy Woman on our block. This woman became my hero.
Maybe God knew I needed a hero. This scripture is a standard to which all women could aspire. It is hope for what our life could be like. My hero really was able to “do it all.” I wanted to be like her. I longed to know how. Fortunately, I found the answers in the scriptures.
The hero didn’t succeed in all her endeavors alone. She chose well with her life mate. She had a successful, supportive, and respected husband. She had a staff to help her – even a housekeeper (verse 15). Maybe it really was OK to hire that housekeeper I had been dreaming of. I started planning the speech to my suspicious husband.
No Husband Bashing!
The housekeeper speech didn’t go so well at first. I thought to myself, if we had her husband, we could probably all be worthy. After all, the Worthy Woman had the perfect husband. God wouldn’t put up with that nonsense – I had a Godly husband. Besides, it wasn’t even about the type of husband she had. It was about a loving wife who always brought her husband good and not harm (verse 12). I realized with chagrin that it didn’t say that she brought him good only when he deserved it. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for my husband to see the light about having a housekeeper.
This woman didn’t waste time blaming or complaining about her husband. While the popular modern day feminine sport of “husband bashing” might be fun and even possibly deserved, I had to stop it anyway. It wasn’t Biblical. I began trying to think only about doing my husband good.
Whining is another popular way of life for many women. We even dress it up with positive words, like “venting,” “expressing our feelings,” or “standing up for ourselves.” I’d read entire books written just to justify my whining and encouraging me to stand up for myself. I’ve since realized that those books destroy happy homes and weren’t Biblical.
Instead, I studied my hero. Like me, she got up early and was never idle. She began her day taking care of her family. She went to her work and made a profit. She worked late into the night. Unlike me, she worked eagerly (verse 13). She kept her sense of humor as she laughed at her future (verse 25). My hero was too dignified to waste her life whining and complaining. I resigned from the whining department.
I was fearful without realizing it. I had dressed my fears up with words like caution, planning, being prudent, and learning from the past. The Bible says fear is not from God. What that meant shocked me as I realized where my fear came from. My hero did not allow fear to control her life (verse 21). She was fearless in her home and business world. This chapter is one of the many scriptures where God tells us that successful business people must be willing to take risks. My hero was willing to make decisions and act before she could guarantee outcomes. She could afford to do this because of wisdom – which does come from God. She considered a field and bought it. Out of her earnings, she planted a vineyard.
As tempting as spending or saving her money might have been, she started a second business. In this business, she made linen garments and sold them. She supplied the merchants with sashes. My hero was a profitable entrepreneur (verse 18). Because of her profits, she was able to be fearless in her home. As a result, her family stayed clothed and fed. Note that she also dressed well. This woman was no “self-sacrificing co-dependent victim,” to use modern day jargon. I began to let go of fear in business and at home and wonder of wonders, my income increased, and my family was better able to stay clothed and fed. It was fun when I realized I could afford to dress better.
Know The Secret!
My hero knew the secret to life. The scripture ends by telling us that she relied on God (verse 30). She had a healthy fear of God – the respectful kind of fear that does come from God. The only thing any of us need to be afraid of is ignoring God’s wisdom and missing the blessings He has planned. As a reward, my hero exhibited what the New Testament called the “Fruits of the Spirit.” I noticed for the first time that these were the fruits of the “Spirit” and not fruits of “works.” All of my “trying harder” had been fruitless and resulted in me feeling like the “Unworthy Woman.” I began letting the sweet fruits of the “Spirit” bloom in my life. Like my hero, when I began living by the fruits of the “Spirit” and not by “works,” those very fruits of the Spirit produced a happy home and successful career.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
I began relaxing. Could it really be this easy? No wonder I fell so short. I was working way too hard. Most of what I was doing was necessary and even good. The problem was my motives – I was desperately trying to be worthy instead of surrendering to the joy of being obedient and trusting that I was already worthy because I was saved by grace. I was trying to do this alone. I was using Proverbs 31 as a “law” to judge me and falling woefully short. I had forgotten grace and was unsuccessfully trying to live by works. I was trying to do it all and had forgotten that I could only do “all things” if I did them in Christ.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
Keep In Step!
I went to my knees as I realized there was no law against the Fruits of the Spirit. They were a gift from the Spirit. I was a Christian who could live by the Spirit. I confessed my need to “keep in step” with the Spirit.
Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:23-25 (NIV)
To “keep in step,” I turned to meditation, prayer, and my Bible. I praised God as I realized that I was already perfect through Christ and was even now being made Holy.
Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14 (NIV)
I looked at the model of Jesus’ life and saw that He began His days with His Father. I began waking up with a song in my heart as I began my days with my Father. I disciplined myself to have a regular quiet time each morning. That meant my husband had to help with the children in the mornings, which actually allowed him to become a better dad. He was dubious at first but will now tell anyone that it was the best thing that could have happened to our family.
In that quiet time, I became still and knew He was God. I meditated, prayed, and studied my Bible. I asked God for knowledge of His will for me and trusted that He would speak. I asked Him for the power to carry out His will each day. My insecurities begin to disappear. I asked for wisdom and knew He would give it.
I did my best to go through my days being obedient to what I heard from God. I began to trust my instincts. God was faithful and answered my prayer as I began making better personal and business decisions. I became willing to take risks that didn’t conflict with the Bible.
As I struggled to hear God clearly, I made mistakes but that is where blessed grace works best. Before retiring at night, I began reviewing my day with God. I confessed doubts and failures. I gratefully accepted forgiveness and made any necessary amends the next day. I woke the next morning and began again.
Continue One Day At a Time!
My journey towards becoming a Worthy Woman began in 1980 and continues today, one day at a time. I rejoice that I am a child of grace. When I began keeping “in step with the Spirit,” I began feeling like that Worthy Woman, one day at a time. As promised, my adult children now call me blessed and my sweet husband praises me (verse 28). It turned out that my Biblical hero helped both of our careers as we began to understand the meaning of having our “works praised at the city gates” (verse 23 & 31). Today I stand tall. Yes, I am a Worthy Woman and enjoying my rewards (verse 31). If you are feeling unworthy, let’s talk. Everything that happened to me can happen to you. The Bible promises it. I’ve experienced it. I believe it!