Daily Proverbial, 7 March 2012

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31, verse 10.

So begins the last section of the book of Proverbs, and I’ll admit that it is one I’ve been both anticipating and dreading. This section will bring to light the ideal to which me and most other men aspire in a mate: a wife of noble character. I’m uniquely qualified to give my perspective and yet I’m also singularly disqualified from it was well.

Catch this if you can: Frank Abagnale Jr. Does the name ring a bell? Ever see the movie “Catch Me If You Can?” Frank Abignale Jr. was Leo DiCaprio’s character, the check-frauding forger who ended up working for the FBI to catch other forgers. If you read his bio, you learn that Mr. Abagnale’s life is one of fall and redemption, yet he was unique in his abilities to be able to help others. The early part of his life – the catch me if you can part – is also the story of my life and the life of every other sinner who let themselves get tripped up in some particular kind of wrong. Who better to prevent forgery than a former forger? Who better to teach about killing than a murderer? Who better to talk about adultery than an adulterer? And I thank God every day now that I’m one of the people who has been given the gift of talking about a wife of noble character because, too many times in my marriage, I tried to desert mine.

It wasn’t always this way; a marriage doesn’t dissolve overnight, and even when one partner is clearly in the wrong it doesn’t mean that the other partner is always right. That disclaimer having been said, for my wrongs and my sins, only I was responsible. She didn’t push me into them; I was tempted, I put myself in those situations, and I stepped over the line. I’ve said it before that things are different now, that I have learned and that I don’t want to be the man I was. I don’t even recognize anymore. I don’t want to because I don’t like what I saw, who I was.

I was a damnable fool because the kind of wife I wanted was a wife of noble character, one who wanted to live up to the ideal encapsulated in this chapter of Proverbs. I was that fool because I turned away from seeing that this was the kind of wife I had. She was aspiring to be that same kind of person, a woman of noble character, and she already was worth more than precious jewels. There were ups and downs in her journey, but there was always progress, always working for more, trying to be better. Long before I even knew what the verse meant, my wife did. Even back then, she was struggling to always become better, always become more, learn from our past, grow with God. I was the one who didn’t.

The first person who ever talked with me about a ‘Proverbs 31 wife’ was, ironically, one I cheated with. She was a woman who wanted very much to be someone of noble character, a strong and reliable partner, one who did her part in her marriage with Godly honor and inner peace. That she wasn’t one (and, for a number of reasons, could not be with me) should have been a clue about how things would eventually turn out; that I wasn’t a Godly man in what I was doing should have been another. When we were getting to know each other, she often discussed wanting to be a Proverbs 31 wife, and I looked it up to read on the qualities to which she aspired. If you’ve never read this particular chapter before, as you’ll see, those qualities are the hallmarks of someone worth far more than precious jewels or treasure. I don’t know if that woman ever became what she wanted to be; we don’t talk anymore and that’s a good thing.

It’s an especially good thing because the woman she wanted to replace in my life already had become that Proverbs 31 wife. Strength, diligence, shrewdness, trustworthiness, talent, blessedness, faith and add to this mercy: these were the qualities my wife already had but then built on in her walk with God. All my life I had wanted someone like this yet all too often I refused to see that she who was given to me had those qualities and was fast becoming stronger and deeper in them. God was moving in her life, reshaping and remolding her, guarding her heart, improving on the gifts He had already placed in her care. The troubles we had – the ones I caused, the ones she caused, the ones we caused together – were making her into a better person than I was. They were making her into someone of noble character.

When I think of that word, character, I can’t help but think of her. I think of Romans chapter 5, verses 3 and 4. If you aren’t familiar with them, they say, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Not coincidentally, those verses are my wife’s favorite, her life’s theme verses that she chose when she was a teen. Suffering produces perseverance; that should be no surprise. Nietzsche vainly stated, “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” God, through Paul, more lovingly wrote how any suffering, even that well short of death, strengthens us, building our resolve. Then, perseverance produces character. If you subscribed to Nietzsche, that perseverance would turn to anger, or hatred, or maybe internalize into depression; that’s what happened to Nietzsche and it killed him.

But in a wife, or a spouse of either sex, when God works through that perseverance, character results; character that is deep, ethical, and Godly. Character is what comprises the features and moral traits of a person. When God works on us, bad character never results. And at work in the wife of noble character, God makes someone like my wife: that lady of strength, diligence, shrewdness, trustworthiness, talent, blessedness, faith and mercy. Her sufferings produced perseverance, which then (like Paul described) produced character: noble and Godly character.

And her character gave us both hope enough to reel us back from the abyss…several times in fact. From there, we are building a better foundation than what we had before. Character turned into hope and hope here is a promise, not a wish. It’s something to rely on because it is of God.

You’ve heard me discuss some of our troubles before, and in the days to come I will discuss a few of them again. Steve Harvey, if you’re out there, I hope you’re reading this message because I think you’ll agree. Mr. Harvey currently has a book on the shelves called “Act Like a Lady. Think Like a Man.” I couldn’t agree more. Every man wants a wife of noble character because the wife of noble character is the most valuable person in your world. She is Godly, wise, and loving. Catch her if you can. She isn’t a forgery. She is the kind of person we all work hard to be. She is my wife.

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