Guest Post: Becoming Proverbs 31 by Ehui Osei-Mensah
It is no secret to many that the Bible is an amazing source of strength, wisdom, and encouragement. As a Christian working mother and wife I constantly need God’s written word to power through my busy life. However, the Bible is also a sharp critic. Sometimes I find it akin to a mirror with bright unflattering lights, exposing the flaky skin and zits that no amount of make-up can cover. In fact, nothing exposes my failings and whips me back into shape faster than the Bible. In His holy word, God clearly presents the standard that Christians should aspire to and if we fail to keep it (His unwavering grace in mind), living up to God’s standard can be quite daunting.
As a Christian woman, Proverbs 31 is one of such passages that inspires me and terrifies me all at once because of the truly high standards it espouses. I would willingly blame Solomon for using the collective skills of all his 300 plus wives to define an impossible standard for all women in this book. But I digress….the Bible is, after all, the inspired word of God so we can assume God’s voice in its every passage. Proverbs 31 is therefore God’s standard for what a superwoman should be.
The passage tells me that the ideal wife and mother barely sleeps but is still able to wake up early to start her busy day (vs. 15). She is a great cook, dress maker, and yet still a successful entrepreneur – buying real estate with her own earnings (vs.16)! She is a philanthropist, opening her house to the poor (vs. 20), and is a kind and effective manager and master planner, rewarding her employees generously and managing her home with poise and grace. She does all this while slaying in all her outfits. Yes! This lady is supposedly physically fit and fashionable! She has strong and toned Michelle Obama arms (vs. 17) and slays in fine linen and purple – in other words – haut couture (vs. 22). She ensures that her household is well-clothed too and brings honor to her husband and family (vs. 23). She is good natured and a wise teacher (vs. 25, 26). Naturally, her husband and children are full of praises for her, who wouldn’t? Who is this woman? She is certainly not me on most days.
How on earth do I match up? Most days I’m stuck at step one. I, like the Proverbs 31 woman, don’t sleep much but I am certainly not springing out of bed before the sun is up with a smile on my face, ready to cook and clean before work. It takes many a slam of the snooze button and kind coaxing from my dear husband to get me out of bed and coherent on most days. I certainly do not manage real estate businesses. I have only one job – one busy job – but nothing compared to the strides of this Proverbs 31 woman. Though I love to look good, I can’t make my own clothing and the ones I buy sport labels of designers whose names you don’t need French training to pronounce (aka not haut couture) and this woman is out there slaying in bespoke fine linen and purple. Could she seriously be real?
For us working wives and mothers who still want to rely on God’s word as the standard for all our endeavors, is the Bible somehow setting us up to fail with an impossible standard? Is there ever a way to happily balance a high powered professional career with wifehood and motherhood, especially as an African woman in the diaspora with external family support miles away? Well, according to Proverbs 31, there are no excuses for mediocrity and yes, it appears possible to be a real superwoman! The one thing the passage doesn’t quite mention is the fact that this woman must be spending some time on her knees communicating with God for the wisdom to excel in all her affairs. I certainly need that divine guidance to be a high performer both at home and at work.
Many times, I think as black African women (bAw), we spend a lot of time recognizing and articulating the odds that we are up against. We frequently discuss the odds against us in the pursuit of a solid education and a successful professional career, a Godly marriage, heathy high-achieving children, and a good standard of living in general. Many of us spend many years wishing for and praying hard for that school, that job, that man, those kids, that house, those clothes, but we spend very little time praying in advance for the grace and power to manage all those blessings effectively when God grants them. Proverbs 31 describes a woman who has been blessed immensely by God in all facets of her life but we see that she needs to work hard and exhibit many impressive skills to manage that success.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” This means that He has the power to grant all our hearts’ desires, including success at home and work, according to His will. It also means He is a ready source for strength and courage to help us manage, to our full potential, those blessings that He grants us. I’m always going to need to tap into His source of strength and to draw from His well that never runs dry because this Proverbs 31 woman that I speak of, she can, by His grace, be me.
What are your thoughts on the Proverbs 31 woman? Do you think she’s realistic or should we just take lessons from her? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Ehui Osei-Mensah is a gorgeous childhood friend of mine who hails from the beautiful country called Ghana in West Africa but currently lives in the Washington DC with her small family. Ehui is a wife and mother of a beautiful little girl. She is a Christian and currently works as the Content Director at Hanover Research. She is a smart young woman with a bubbly personality and a love for Jesus.