A woman of noble character: give her the reward she has earned, and let her words bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31, verse 31.
Some books in the Bible just end. Take Acts (or ‘the Acts of the Apostles.’). There isn’t an ending or benediction to it. It simply ends, leading us to conclude that there really is no conclusion. The journey simply continues. So it is with the book of Proverbs. God’s sayings are many and varied, but they don’t end. They continue. They are His recorded advice and common sense, pertinent to every age in future history. Even when you reach the end of a chapter or book, the lessons still continue on.
For instance, all these last few verses about the woman of noble character. It’s safe to say that what we’ve learned about her is that her character is evidence of her faith. She is who she is because she is a woman of God. She is a woman, a wife, a partner, a friend, a confidante, a teacher, a worker, and a child of God. She is the equal of any wise man even as her role, like herself, is different. As a woman of noble character, she earns her time in the sun. It isn’t just given to her by others: she’s earned it. That’s worthy of praise and admiration. Giving her that praise is the Godly and right thing to do.
And then there is the lesson that heaven is not just later: heaven is here and now. Our reward is heaven, and the reward for the wife of noble character is heaven. So many pastors would have us end a discussion of heaven at “later.” “That’s for then, this is now.” Really? I don’t think so. For the Godly, for that woman of noble character, heaven is here and now. This isn’t the eternity we’re promised, but the good in this world is a glimpse of it. That perfect eternity really does come later, and at a moment’s notice for which the wife of noble character is already prepared. Where we spend our lives now, in union and faith with God, though, may just be where we will spend our eternity. This very earth may itself be where our heaven will be restored. Give the woman of noble character her reward. She has earned it, both now and for later.
There’s that city gate again. People come and go, in and out of the city through that gate. It’s where you would find the learned, the wealthy, the prominent people. They would be on top of their game at the city gate. Make a place for the wife of noble character there at the gate. She is first among equals and has earned her time in the sun there. Men and women are different, to be sure, but the wife of noble character isn’t some shrew to be trampled under foot, just some subservient helpmate to the man’s headship. She is Queen Esther, leading and bringing many sons to Glory. Honor her place at the city gate where many may be inspired by her countenance.
Along the path of my life I have so far met many extraordinary women. My mom is extraordinary. She was independent and liberated before feminists ever learned to shave their hairy legs. Her mom was extraordinary too, and I didn’t even really know her in her prime. My daughters are extraordinary, at least to me. Ditto my sister and sister in law, both of whom have made successful careers and prosperous lives. And my mother in law; I won’t forget her because she too is extraordinary. My dad’s three sisters are extraordinary. They are our family’s matriarchs, inspiring the rest of us with dignity in the face of adversity, facing down dread times with courage and resolve, and loving kindness in all things. There were teachers (Missus Kennan, Winn, Pickens and Herbert specifically come to mind) who were, in my opinion, surely the best ever in their trade. There was an old friend in Florida who was a single mother of two girls, managed a retirement park, and is one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Not far from her is the born again friend, someone who has become a teacher of faith to me and an inspiration in dark times. Bonnie, my former manager in Colorado, taught me quite a lot about corporate America and loyalty to the people around you. And there is Ann, who confirmed me at the Presbyterian Church in McAlester. She was the first female minister I’ve ever known and a truer believer in the Lord you’d be hard to ever find.
After all these weeks of reading, I hope you get the sense now that I think my wife is the most extraordinary of all. All those other ladies – mentors, friends, coworkers, and family – are accomplished and noble in their own ways. None of them, or any of the many I’ve left unmentioned, can hold a candle to the lady at whose side I am fortunate to stand. She’s earned a reward far better than me, one far better than anything I could ever provide. All of us who know her are blessed to do so. She’s fiercely loyal, devastatingly competent and quite fun to be around. She also has cute toes and makes some really killer strawberry jam. When I think of a wife of noble character, one who embodies all the best qualities that the Lord wanted women and men alike to know from these Proverbs, to emulate, I think of her. Thank you, my honey, for being with me, and for standing with me. You could have walked away but you make life wonderful just by being you and staying. I admire and love you.
Today is a day of change. This is the last verse in the book of Proverbs and thus it will be a transition point in our journey together. I don’t know how many thousands of words we’ve shared on this trek, but it has been quite a few. Lots of prayer and thought has gone into where to go from here, and I know now where that will be. God willing, there will be more words up ahead after a short time away to collect them and rest up. Wherever the words have led, I hope you know even more now that the most proverbial thing any of us could say is “Jesus loves me this I know.” Not many words to make that musical phrase, but they say much more than all of mine combined. Three thousand years ago, King Solomon didn’t know Him by name, but he knew what those words would mean. After all, they were proverbial. Many years from now, those words will still be much more than simply true. Some books and journeys end. This one continues.