Ode to a Virtuous Woman

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Scripture continually invites us to reason together, to know God and love one another. The prayers of God’s people are focused on loving God and one another and teaching the same values to each generation. Our quest is to seek God with all that we are and to grow deep in our understanding of God’s purposes.

Ode to a Virtuous Woman
Proverbs 31
At the time Proverbs 31 was written, virtue was a trait solely assigned to men. Women were not considered to have the strength of character or capacity of mind to act virtuously. Proverbs 31 is the astonished witness to an exception to all conventional wisdom. Can it be? A woman being virtuous?! The fact that the context of this proverb is contained within the boundaries of home should not diminish the wonder of this uncommon discovery of virtue. A woman has shown herself to be powerful, strong, able, true, trustworthy, business-minded and wise. The poet cannot keep it to himself.

Today women’s possibilities are not limited by the boundaries of a home. In fact, many women courageously carve life out in the world of commerce and community. But still, virtue is not found everywhere. What might we say today about the discovery of a virtuous woman? (I wrote this along the tracks of Proverbs 31 but with a specific woman in mind.)

Ode to a Virtuous Woman
2014 Version of Proverbs 31

A woman of virtue is exceptional and rare. It is not her social, economic or physical advantages that make her stand out. She may actually live around the edges of poverty, but her value could not be contained in the largest stock portfolio.

Those around her know she can be trusted wisely to choose for the good of others as well as for herself. She understands that to share her power does not diminish her life, but expands it. She does not act impulsively in ways that destroy or wound others.

She is not afraid to be creatively resourceful in order to make life happen. You will not find her whining because of her lack of resources. She faces life straight on and finds a way to move forward. Her creativity provides resources for others as well as for her own life.

She understands that ‘feeding work’ is central to life and that the kitchen can be a place of bonding and blessing as easily as it can be a place of oppression. She invites others to her table and expresses hospitality through simple shared practices of food and conversation. She easily shares the roles of host and guest, graciously allowing others to serve her as well.

When the occasion calls for it, she does not resent rising early, preparing for the day. She is diligent in keeping her promises and her work bears the marks of thoughtful attention. She is not afraid of finances and makes responsible generous choices.

She takes time to share life with those around her, learning from them and sharing her knowledge with them. No one is too small or marginal to be dismissed by her. She is a life-giver to those around her, teaching and modeling kindness.

She puts on strength like clothing, and takes care of her own wellness, not expecting to be rescued by a knight on a white horse. She isn’t a fretter or a worrier. She rejects self pity. She refuses to play the role of martyr. Laughter rings in her company.

She makes wise decisions and good judgments based on reflection and thought. She is guided by the virtues of faith, hope and love. Her hands are often extended to those who are poor or discouraged, offering them a moment of help and consolation.

She arranges her life with margin, knowing that in doing so she creates space for others. She takes care of her own issues and seeks help when she needs it so she won’t spill her brokenness of others. She can gently and firmly say ‘no’.

She may not be a classic beauty, but this woman bears herself with dignity and strength. She has a presence about her, and knows how to dress and act appropriately. She walks into a room and thinks of others, not much concerned with how others are seeing her.

Many women are accomplished and noticed in our culture, but this woman surpasses them all. Charm can be used to manipulate and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord and lives a holy life of love is to be praised. Give her the honor and reward she has earned and let her be esteemed as a leader in the church.

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Vice President for Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary and has been a church leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination since 1979. She has wide pastoral experience in partnership with her husband Steve. Together, they have lead three churches over 31 years, provided missionary member-care and pastoral retreats in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela since l985, and formation teaching during Field Conferences in Eastern Europe and Indonesia.

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