Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wife of Noble Character

In the last few months I've had the combined misfortune and fortune of attending two memorial services for two women. Both had been wives and mothers and grandmothers. The reason I call it fortune to have been present as their family and friends remembered them, is that their lives were both so incredibly inspiring to me in the time of life at which I currently find myself.  Each woman in her illness and passing, left a great gap which they once filled with joy and wisdom, discernment, compassion, care and grace.
I often fantasized in my childhood about becoming a great, powerful, influential woman. Someone that spoke with authority, and garnered respect. In the past year I have had to resign myself to being at home all day, speaking with very little authority to an audience of one who barely understands english, and when he does, usually pretends he does not. There's not really anyone around to praise me for my accomplishments, so I list them as soon as my husband comes in the door. Perhaps some part of me is convinced if I don't verbalize my works, then they really don't matter after all. I know they do. Jack has a clean house and he has food to eat, toys to play with. He is happy and healthy, and actually, wonderfully joyful most of the time. But no one will write books about this. There will be no headlines, no tv movie. Motherhood is not how one becomes famous. At least not without having record numbers of babies or maybe taking time to write an incredibly successful series of children's books. I will not be famous, or infamous. I will be the wife of John, and the mother of Jack.
I don't take these titles lightly, in fact they weigh on me daily. How can I be better at this job? How can I excel? Without goals one is just free-falling with nothing but an abrupt and painful meeting with the earth to look forward to. I have been haunted for years now by a passage in Proverbs, that actually came up at the services of both of the aforementioned women. It's the Epilogue to the book of Proverbs entitled "The Wife of Noble Character." It speaks of a woman who is dependable, driven, skilled, consistent, and as such is "worth far more than rubies." It is a very inspiring and daunting passage. Traditionally at Shabbat dinner it is read by the patriarch as a blessing over his wife before the meal. It truly shows the great value of  a woman who has taken Wife and Mother as an esteemed position. This woman understands how important her contributions are to her family. She is a blessing to all and a servant of all.  I have come to discover that when discussing great women these verses come up as frequently as 1 Corinthians 13 comes up at weddings. But I don't think that repetition diminishes it at all. In fact, I may start making my husband read this at dinner once a week as a blessing over me.
Jack has been around for just over a year now, and his taken me almost as long to begin to understand the great honour and high calling that is motherhood, and marriage. It is challenging to be selfless, to sacrifice every moment to another human being. I never used to have to do that when I worked because John and I were in the same boat, and so we had equal responsibility for our household. Now he bears all of the financial responsibility (a hefty burden now with house and a child). I bear his laundry, his comfort, his food, his children! I want to carry it all gracefully, and by the grace of God I may yet. Perhaps I will never achieve renowned among the masses. But I pray that I can be a significant and overflowing blessing to my family.
b]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her

    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,

    all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax

    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,

    bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;

    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;

    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;

    her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,

    and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff

    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor

    and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;

    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;

    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,

    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,

    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;

    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,

    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household

    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;

    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,

    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,

    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.