“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.”
In a moment of domestic & maternal frustration as a young mother, I called my wise sister in the States who was two years and two kids ahead of me. I asked her how she did everything she did so well – raise kids, manage a home, love her husband and have a ministry at church. I was sure there must be a secret out there that every other woman knew, while apparently I had missed the memo.
What she said to me was surprisingly liberating:
“It’s just a lot of hard work.”
It was not the answer I was looking for. Honestly, some secret that made the whole thing magically easy would have been preferable. But still, it was strangely liberating. A life of order, wise parenting, loving marriage, and a peaceful home could be a reality.
Just not for the lazy.
Scattered throughout Proverbs 31, we see a number of verses that illustrate our next virtue:
“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar…She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.”
Proverbs 31:13-14, 19
Don’t check out because of old-ish words like “flax” and “distaff”. Though these activities of a noble woman in biblical times don’t exactly correspond to what our life situations require of us (thank you Old Navy and Homesense), we can’t dismiss them as irrelevant because they provide the practical context for her character. The applications may differ between our centuries, but the qualities are enduring.
These verses show another such enduring quality of the Super Wife that solidifies her status as valued & rare:
She is Diligent.
To be diligent is to be careful and persistent in our work and effort. Words like “seek”, “brings” and “puts her hands to”, paint for us the picture of a woman of intention. A woman who initiates her work. No one is forcing her. She employs her time and energy of her own accord. She’s not grudgingly complying with an order or doing the bare minimum to get by. Going even further, the original word for “willing” infers a delight and pleasure. The diligent woman likes to work. I hear some “amens”. I hear some groans.
Admittedly, some of us come more naturally to this bent via personality or growing up with a good model. But as with all things good and pleasing to the Lord, these right practices can be ours if they flow out of right doctrine. As we could say about every quality of this Proverbs 31 woman, cheerful diligence has its root in her fear of the Lord. (Prov. 31:30) How is that related? Well if I live with a proper reverence for God, I will live according to his wisdom and priorities and I will care about his assessment of my life. That forces me to ask what God thinks about how we spend the hours and days He has given us.
What does He think about it?
In a nutshell: Like other resources and opportunities God’s given us to manage, He gives us varying amounts of time and energy to use in ways that further His purposes. Not only that, but we’ll account for our time at some imminent but unknown date. (Matthew 25) That truth should make us care about our work ethic and create an eagerness to reach for that proverbial distaff.
After establishing a biblical understanding about the purpose and accounting of my time, there are two other practices that have helped me grow in Diligence:
- I view Time for what it’s worth.
Like money, time is a commodity and we have a choice as to whether we’ll consume it or invest it. Devour it or devote it. Dissimilar to money, we can’t make more time. We can’t borrow time. We can’t bank time. We can’t even stop it from being spent. And once it is spent, we can never get it back. Time by its very nature is immensely more valuable than money, yet we often carelessly burn through it with little concern over the fact that we have nothing to show for it.
To help discern whether I am managing my time, responsibilities and opportunities with diligence, I’ve started asking of each time expenditure:
What will I have to show for this?
And that question brings me to the next practice:
- I view my work for what it creates.
Instead of viewing my many daily tasks at face value, I like to view them in light of the benefit they create in my home. You see, when we invest our time with diligence, we are spending it on something that gives a valuable return. For example:
- I’m not just cooking or getting groceries; I’m providing nourishment, pleasure & health for my family and those who come to visit.
- I’m not just picking up around the house; I’m fashioning an inviting environment of order and peace.
- I’m not just doing laundry; I’m managing my family’s wardrobe in a way that enables peaceful mornings.
- I’m not just reading my Bible; I’m gathering wisdom and inviting God to shape my character so I can respond well to circumstances and relationships.
- I’m not just caring for two crazy Puggles; I’m giving my girls the daily delight of waking up with sleepy pups.
- I’m not just working hard during my allotted hours for the fun of it; I’m clearing hours and mental space for later so I can engage my family in a focused and relaxed manner.
Though some of us naturally derive pleasure and satisfaction from completing tasks*, all of us can delight in our work when we choose to view it in light of God’s purposes, time’s value and the blessing it generates for our families.
Now where’s my spindle?
* Caveat for the super-keen workers among us: This encouragement to diligence doesn’t mean we are always working and moving from task to task. Our husbands married an intimate friend, not an efficient administrator. Our children need a tender mom, not a rigid manager. As Elizabeth George states, “People first, then the place… The place exists to serve the people.” So though we need to invest this precious resource of time carefully, let’s make sure that we are diversifying our portfolio appropriately between needed tasks done for our precious people and time with our precious people. Most need to be encouraged to work more. Some need to be encouraged to work less. Let’s prayerfully discern what’s needed!