With a great affinity for St. Therese’s life, I have come to know the “Little Way” along with its philosophy of “following the lead and needs of others with great love.” What I did not realize until I awoke one morning last week was that St. Therese’ life demonstrated in very real ways the beauty and strength, the self-reliance and discipline described in the Proverbs 31 verses. This realization compelled me to seek out not only the real truth, but also the misconceptions surrounding these verses.
In the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible, Proverbs 31 describes the qualities of a woman of good character. Most notably, the 10th to 31st verses of this chapter is known as “Eishes Chayil”. Traditionally, this term translates to mean “virtuous” or “noble.” However, many scholars now suggest the true meaning of the term as “forceful,” “mighty,” or “valiant” with the term being used almost exclusively in reference to warfare. Apparently, back then as is now, a “woman of good character” is not only viewed as a cherished life partner, but a powerful entrepreneur too!
Like many of you out there, before taking a closer look, I too had misconceptions about Proverbs 31; most notably I thought the verses were only directed toward women. What’s more, I had visions of home confinement, having to surrender my strengths, only to become weak; having to surrender my independence, only to become dependent on another; and having to surrender control of my life and my voice, only to have decisions made for me. Upon learning the history and carefully reading Proverbs 31, however, I learned a male chauvinist did not write the verse with the purpose of dictating how a woman should behave to benefit him. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the verses were offered as loving advise from King Lemmuel’s Mother to her son about the qualities that empowered both men and women along with the relationship they shared. While the chapter focused on the qualities of a woman of good character, it also implied a man of good character when read between the lines, for why would a woman follow a man’s lead only to be mistreated? I found Proverbs 31 to be a beautiful portrait illustrating a loving relationship between man and woman as a dynamic, mutually rewarding partnership; one that a woman followed a man’s lead and the man in return followed a woman’s needs.
Proverbs 31 also placed a high priority on family life along with the practice of wisdom within the home. The thought is that learning wisdom at the home not only taught family members to relate to one another, but also taught them to relate to others in the real world as you would family members – whether it be socially, professionally, spiritually, or romantically. In ministering to one another, the needs of others took precedence before our own. In loving and encouraging others to reach their full potential in all areas of life, we also helped our loved ones reach the kingdom of heaven.
As I started to read and learn about Proverbs 31, the deep meaning behind the verses slowly sunk in. It became clear that in our quest to belong to the secular world, we often misinterpret God’s Word. In taking a closer look at Proverbs 31, I discovered the secular world to be far more demeaning to women with the message of the Gospel far more liberating. In future posts, I will share my thoughts on the meaning behind the 10th to 31st verses of Proverbs 31 and how they may apply to life today.
Why? Leave a legacy…
Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my community, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.