However, I found myself exploring contemporary church attitudes and the implication of wellbeing on women pertaining this passage. During the time I spent with these women, I got the impression that some of the women had immense pressure to stand and be identified as virtuous women in the church. From knowing some of the women personally, having worked alongside some of them, I noticed that what I had seen amongst some of the women, “behind the scenes” did not necessarily match the ideals of Proverbs 31:10-31. However, the women chose not to disclose in the interviews that were undertaken for the study but spoke informally otherwise outside of the study. For example, some of the women had debt problems from taking out personal loans in order to start business projects, buy brand new cars and maintain set lifestyles for their husbands. Some women were evidently suffering the effects of stress from working long hours. Other women were experiencing domestic abuse.
I was touched by all of their circumstances, and I am inclined to say that there are questions that we as women, first need to ask ourselves for our own sake. For example, how badly do we want the best out of ourselves? Are we willing to put in the time and effort to find that ‘best’, to dig deep for it or to search for it? We need to be honest with ourselves and find out, what it means to sacrifice the things that we value. For example, is it worth it to keep together a marriage in the face of domestic violence for the sake of upholding the value of being a Proverbial woman? For the sake of acceptance by the church, or merely for the admiration by our peers in the community and how that admiration may make us feel? In my findings a lot of women said it was a Christian ideal to be like the Proverbial woman. I had issues with what they said because the climate in today’s society is met with issues of domestic violence and a lot of women would not open up about such issues easily. I felt sad that there was a tremendous amount of pressure to uphold this Christian ideal. I felt that there is a definite need to take a deeper reflection of ourselves to enable us to honestly identify who we want to be, and examine the cost of what we will have to sacrifice.
Proverbs 31:10-31 is about how the woman uses wisdom and understanding to help her husband successfully and effectively plan within the marriage and family set up. Much as being a Proverbial woman is beneficial as it builds a woman’s self-esteem and confidence. It has to be said that for any woman to achieve the aforementioned attributes of the Proverbial woman, we need to agree that while some things are easy to come by through learning from The Bible or being taught in church, other things require a little more time and effort to obtain because of the realities in our individual lives as women, for instance the challenges faced within cultural norms in the face of the dysfunction of others.
I will be specific. The biblical texts in Proverbs 31: 10-31 speak of how the woman is expected to make sacrifices of herself in order to bring dignity to her husband. I am of the strong opinion that many contextual scenarios of the current climate of abuse and exploitation tend to be overlooked by Pastors and preachers when encouraging female congregants to take the example of the Proverbial woman. Relationship dynamics have to be considered here, the roles within family structure need to be scrutinised as well as the relationship between a couple within marriage. For example, what do our husbands do to complement or encourage us in being the good and worthy wives we are expected to be? From my understanding, marriage is not one sided, neither is raising a family. It is not a woman’s job alone. How do we reciprocate as good wives in the face of abuse? Whether it is emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, or even in having to cope with husbands that gamble or abuse drugs and alcohol. How do women submit lovingly and enthusiastically whilst in a dysfunctional marriage, where she is not treated according to her so called worth? That is the challenge because so many women have been backed into corners by society and church in order to be branded the Proverbial woman of Proverbs 31:10-31. As I mentioned earlier, some women have been known to end up in situations of unmanageable debt, suicide, acquired stress related health conditions and have also stayed in abusive marriages (at the risk of losing their lives to violence and torment) because of the pressures associated with being the Proverbial wife.
In my opinion, marriage works differently because of the times we are living in, our current context. Proverbs 31:10-31 was written at an earlier time and for a different culture of people. Therefore, preachers and mentors need to ensure that even the husbands get an education of how they should be as partners in the face of seeking the Proverbial woman.