The Wife of Noble Character: Wrestling with My Identity in Christ
If you have read Proverbs 31, then you might be familiar with verses 10-31, which are devoted to describing, “The Wife of Noble Character.” Even if you haven’t, you might have seen reference to it somewhere because this mantra for Christian women is literally everywhere. At some point in your life, maybe you have wondered: Who is this woman? Is she even a real person? Maybe you have tried to compare her with people you know or have encountered in your life and even with yourself. I would venture to believe that most of us would think she is the “standard” of what a good Christian woman looks like. If that is true for you then this woman is everything you would want to be, hoped you could be, and is possibly the reason why you might have felt like you don’t measure up.
I can say that for me my journey with the Wife of Noble Character has been full of mixed emotions. Initially, this standard provided me with the groundwork of what a wife could be expected to do for her family and husband. In this department I need all the help I can get. So I got the crazy idea that I would write out this passage on my best paper in my best penmanship. I figured if I had it visibly as a constant reminder then maybe I would never forget what I should be doing. So I did just that. After I finished, I scoured my house looking for the perfect frame. None were good enough, so I vowed that I would buy one that was worthy the next time I was out running errands. I wish I could tell you that I had it hanging up in my home in no time. Unfortunately, my good intentions were short lived. I never bought the frame and there the paper sat. It sat just like my efforts to become this woman.
Years passed by and I pursued other avenues to assist me in becoming a better wife and mother. I went to seminars, took classes, consulted friends, and read books. You get the idea. I revisited the Wife of Noble Character from time to time, yet I didn’t find myself feeling that same enthusiasm. To me she had become the impossible standard, a nemesis actually, and a reminder that I didn’t live up to the expectations. The words of the passage that mentioned about getting up “while it is still night to provide food for her family,” echoed within, confirming that would never be me. I have always been a difficult riser and could never get up early let alone provide food for my family. My kids are very familiar with getting their own breakfast in the morning because Mommy has a hard time getting it together. Other words referencing “(that she) does not eat the bread of idleness,” only further highlighted my inadequacies. Forget eating an occasional slice of that kind of bread; I was probably eating loaves of it. Some days I would be successful but other days I was consumed by the weariness of responsibility. Many other verses in the passage condemned me as well. I felt like a failure. My heart sank and had convinced myself, why even try, this will never be you. I resolved to be good enough and instead, worked on accepting myself for who I was. So I prayed that God would do the same and resolve in me these feelings.
Months passed by and I grew discontented, I wanted more of myself and I wanted more than what I was seeing. At the very least, I wasn’t going to give up trying like I had wanted to before. And God was working inside of me. My heart was changing. I figured out a way to get up early; I was waking up at 6am every day. I did see the value in waking up early, something that had been a mystery for so many years. This small act became a big miracle for me. I quickly realized it wasn’t ever really about me becoming an early riser because that was what the Wife of Noble Character did. God in His wisdom was teaching me something more important. God was giving me a victory and a glimpse of hope that things could be different. They could be better. Then a few months ago my eldest daughter had opened the Bible and asked my husband to read it. I had been sitting on the couch next to them with our youngest daughter. He read the words describing The Wife of Noble Character. Hearing those words read aloud that day, pierced my heart like a double edged sword. And without warning, my husband uttered the words, “That describes your Mommy” to our daughters. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing my husband say! I knew if he had taken a closer look at each of those verses, he would have known that that didn’t possibly describe me. They just didn’t. I mean how could they? But to him it didn’t matter if I did exactly what “she” had done. It was something he had seen inside “me.” It was the heart of the Wife of Noble Character. Again, it was the hope of something better.
My eyes and heart had been refreshed by God’s faithful work; I was convicted that the Wife of Noble Character represented something greater than a standard to emulate. Her greatest purpose is that she is and will always exemplify the woman who follows after God’s plans for her. These are her own individual plans that God had developed for her specifically. She isn’t following the way that she thinks she should because it’s what she thinks is best. What’s more, do you notice that it doesn’t mention that she is doing what everyone else is doing, or that she spends her time comparing herself to others, or that she is following a standard that society has set for her? No, she is focused, driven and confident to stay on the path set out before her. She pursues it and doesn’t take her eyes off of the prize for one second. She knows what she has and is content but she also does whatever she can to keep it, to maintain it, to appreciate it. And something ahead of her is guiding her steps.
So I ask you, who is the Wife of Noble Character? It isn’t just her or someone else. It is YOU; each and every one of you has the ability to accept this identity in Christ today. I challenge you, if you already haven’t, to find your own path. Not in just any direction but the one that God has designed for you personally, the one that is the very best for you and your family. Don’t worry that it may be different than everyone else. Keep your eyes off of others and you will do just fine. The first step is taking one step and putting your foot right in front of the other. It might seem scary, but I promise you, it will all work out better than you could have ever imagined. And if you are looking for proof, take another look at the Wife of Noble Character.
Alexis Hassell is mom to two daughters, ages 6 and 4. She lives in Westlake Village, Ca with her daughters & husband, Kris. She has a strong passion for learning new things and a love for the Lord. God has used this passion & provided the opportunity for her and her husband to homeschool their girls this past year…a journey to which they hope to continue on with in the years ahead.
Brenda Quinn says
Thank you, Alexis. I love hearing your story. I think it’s easy to be frustrated and then just dismiss this passage. You’re right that what is important is following God’s specific plan for each one of us, and that will be different from woman to woman. We do need to be obedient and let God stretch and grow us, even when it’s not pleasant and feels unnatural. God helps us do what we’d never imagine we could. Thanks for this encouragement.
Laura Hill says
Recently I’ve had this discussion again and again with women of faith and we’ve come to a similar conclusion–if there is anything good about us at all it is due to the work of Christ in our lives. On our own we simply fail and we see those failures as if they were brought out with a highlighter pen. Women who’s heart yearn to be women of God will fail, often in fact, but it is our desire to stay in alignment with the path Christ has for us that brings us back and gives us grace. I’ve found that when we look back at “where we were” compared to “where we are” as women, those of us who fervently strive to be a mirror of Christ are covered in boundless grace and that is what others pick up on. We are our worst critic and it is the moments that others reveal to us what they see as good, pure, loving, patient and kind that show God is indeed at work in our lives. Thank you so much for your post!
“I was convicted that the Wife of Noble Character represented something greater than a standard to emulate. Her greatest purpose is that she is and will always exemplify the woman who follows after God’s plans for her.”
Thank you for this. It was exactly what I needed to read today!
Proverbs 31 is my least favorite passage because I never felt I could be that woman. I loved how this article (blog) shared so honestly about the challenge of these words but also refreshingly insightful that it is the work of God in our life that allows us to be the woman he desires us to be.
I love your encouragement to women on how we all have the ability to accept and share in Christ’s identity…the world will tell us what we should be doing and how we should be acting but it is the word of God that stands forever and represents absolute truth in our lives, not the truth others behold. Thank you for your heartfelt words and your humble sharing with us all, Alexis!
Your post made me cry Alexis! When your husband said That’s your mommy (I am tearing up to write it now!), that was the Lord Himself also speaking through your husband—that was the ultimate recognition that you DID “get” what Proverb 31 was saying, which is summed up for ME anyway in the very almost last line: “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” I confess that I had never ever heard of this proverb and went right away to read it but it was THAT LINE where God told me what I already knew—-IT ALL STARTS WITH HIM and then trickles down from there “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”—meaning, for me, a woman who is wrapped up entirely in the Lord and what HE wants her to do 🙂 which is exactly the point you were making. Because He has a different plan for every one of us–He made us all different for a reason!!! I put myself down too and compared and thought I wasn’t good enough–in whose eyes? NEVER in the Lord’s. When we put ourselves down, we are putting down HIS PRECIOUS WORK, for we are unique precious creations never to be copied or duplicated ever again in this lifetime, here or in Heaven. So we should just revel in that, delight in our wonderful uniqueness the Lord has made, and ask Him, Lord, what can I do for YOU today? And that, for me, is the gist of this whole proverb. I’m glad we see it the same way Alexis and again, thanks for having the courage to share your personal story with us all!!!