We can live like this for years and often do so. Basically, what we have done is develop an alter-ego that has spent decades pursuing the attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman. This seems pretty reasonable and is encouraged in the church. After all, isn’t this right? Aren’t these good and noble pursuits? Who wouldn’t want to become more and more like the Proverbs 31 woman?
The Proverbs 31 woman is validated in scriptures as a winner in the ultimate womanhood category. And as women, validation is something we all long for. So we pursue these kinds of attributes and wear them like fine clothing. We learn the right behaviors and all the right things to say. We go from Bible studies to home fellowship groups to church events with ease. Our determination is to become more and more like her, and for a season we are succeeding spiritually — or so we think.
Here’s the problem. We can only keep up this pace for so long before the winds of change and transition (that naturally occur around mid-life) begin to break down our world of Christian expectations. When this happens, we inevitably begin to watch the walls of our lives start to crack as the old “us” we never quite dealt with leaks back in and often in shocking ways. We find our new selves sitting in judgment of our old selves, and our old selves rising up in rebellion to the new. We become conflicted, immobilized, confused as both sides begin to crash in on each other. What’s more, we don’t want anyone to find out, so we often isolate. It doesn’t help that we feel the pressure to have it together, especially by mid-life. It’s an awful dilemma!
The good news
Even though it sounds like a bit of a train wreck, it can be a heart-transforming collision to have, a sacred place where God gets a hold of our hearts in a special way. A huge weight lifts off our shoulders as we finally discover that this elusive and most enviable Proverbs 31 woman we have been chasing all these years is a description — not a real person. It is a description that reflects qualities of a heart rather than accomplishments — qualities that can only be brought about by doing the hard work of believing well the truth that we are completely loved — foibles, brokenness and all.
This collision carries us in a place where it’s safe to be real. He is the Great Physician who can guide us through troubled areas that we have since pretended never existed. Facing our brokenness without fear of being judged or rejected is a game changer. It takes the old and makes it new with fresh and healthy perspective.
Just as the women who surrounded Jesus during his time of ministry were treasured without being Proverbs 31 women, so are we. They were broken women, undone, and did not have it all together like us. They were not highly thought of, and many had spent their lives being rejected. But Jesus poured his mercy and grace on these women in glorious measure. He loved and delighted in them just as they were. As a result there were no pretenses, only hearts that overflowed with gratitude as these women received unmerited favor — the highest privilege and honor. Maybe the Proverbs 31 woman, like the law, was meant as a tutor to lead us to grace all along. As we pursue her never ending list of wonderful traits and accomplishments, and always fall short, we find ourselves in a better category all its own — robed in the righteousness of Christ alone. What a marvelous discovery — one that is worth a mid-life collision to make!
Paula Masters is the author of “Exceptional Bloom: Coming Alive After Fifty” and the founder of True Source Ministries, an online ministry to hurting women, found at tsmwomen.org. She stays connected with her readers on her “Over Fifty and Fabulous” facebook page and online at OverFiftyandFab.com.