A wife of noble character: in her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. Proverbs 31, verse 19.
A few days ago, we talked about how a wife of noble character would select good wool and flax. She would wisely select the best fibers from which to make the best fabrics. Doing this would be an act of service and an act of love. Today we get to talk about how she uses that. If you remember, I mentioned how I had seen recreations of how 1830s pioneers spun cloth. Watching made me glad to live when and where I do. Before you could make cloth, you had to back up a few steps; before you could weave thread into cloth you had to weave cotton, flax, silk or some other fiber into thread. That’s where the distaff and spindle come into play.
On a spinning wheel, you would pump or turn the wheel while threading fiber over the spindle onto the wheel. The wheel would help separate and wind the thin fibers into thread or yarn. The distaff would come into play because it held the fibers. It wasn’t easy work keeping the un-spun fibers untangled from the spun thread (which was wound onto a spool, just as it is today in modern factories). It would take nimble fingers, dexterity and many hours of practice. To think that, in some parts of the US, activities such as this really only ceased to be commonplace about 100 years ago is amazing. To think that, in some parts of the world today, it is still occurring is shocking and proof that the more things change the more they stay the same. It’s proof that we should be thankful…
…Because one of the things that stays the same is how women multi-task. I think the verse is obviously talking about how a woman spinning thread was talented and industrious. As said above, she had to develop nimble fingers to keep the un-spun fibers free from the spun thread; she had to work to keep the ‘corrupt’ free from the ‘refined.’ The wife of noble character would have had to work to keep refining and spinning thread, feeding the spindle and wheel, keeping the unrefined fibers free and untangled, pumping the wheel with her foot (or perhaps turning it occasionally by hand), and winding the spun thread onto a fresh spool. It sounds exhausting because it was.
In a larger sense, the verse is talking about how the wife of noble character would have to multi-task. Men, in the 32 centuries since this proverb was written, what has changed? I mean, do I venture onto risky ground if I say that men and women perform tasks differently because we’re wired differently? In my opinion, women are better at multi-tasking than men are. If you want to know more about why I say this, please do two things. One, read “For Men Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn and, two, email my wife. Ask her if she thinks I think she multi-tasks better than me.
Men, the answer is obvious.
My wife is much better at simultaneously performing multiple tasks than I am. I have long thought this is one of the talents God gave women and not men. It isn’t that men can’t multi-task: it’s just that women are better at it. Part of the proof is in the Proverb, but part of the proof is also just in common sense. Historically, women managed dozens of tasks just to manage a home. With women now making up half of the ‘external’ workforce, it’s surprising that most homes are still managed and kept mostly by women. Does this mean men need to lend a bigger hand? Yes, I say it does. But it also means that even if men do, it still shouldn’t surprise most folks that women might just do a better job at getting those many tasks done.
Why? Because women can multi-task better. This isn’t sexist and it isn’t an endorsement of the ideas of Gloria Steinham. It’s actually a compliment and, I think, a fact of life. Many women are industrious, multi-talented, multi-faceted, and able to multi-task more effectively than their male counterparts. It’s a God-given ability. Such a lady is the kind of lady a man of aspiring character would want for a wife. Sure, I know there are men in this modern nation who still want an industrious woman to only tend their houses; if that works for them in a marriage, God bless them both. I wanted more. I wanted someone who was kind, smart, fun, pretty, intelligent, curious, independent and able. And I wanted someone who could multi-task. I wanted a wife of noble character.
Thanks be to God that He led me to one.
I’ve never seen my wife spin thread; to be honest, I’m not sure she would even know how to operate a spinning wheel. And I don’t know that she would even want to try; I know I wouldn’t, at least not because I had to. I’m glad to be able to go to a store to purchase the clothing I need. It’s worth it to me to ‘sub out’ that function. In a way, that’s sad. How would our society function if there were ever a grave crisis where we needed to know how to perform those ancient skills like raising good, self-defense, building your own shelter and, yes, spinning thread for cloth? If you live in the suburbs like me, your lifestyle – maybe your life – would be at risk. It works for many people in the world to not know how to perform tasks like spinning, but thank God He gave our forbears the ability to learn and master these kinds of work. And thank God He gives us the ability to do the same if or when we will need to. Most of all, thank God for the women he put in the world who can perform multiple tasks at once with talent, grace and love.