Proverbs 31 scares me. The Virtuous Woman’s kitchen floor was always perfectly clean, no sticky messes for visitors’ sandals to stick to. She never ran by the bakery fifteen minutes before school for “homemade” cookies because her child forgot to tell her she was homeroom mother that week. And I assure you the Virtuous Woman never said to her husband, “Whoops, I forgot to go to the market. Can you bring a lamb home to roast?” I’d be afraid to let that paragon of virtue into my home. If there’s a checklist for perfection, there are no checks in my boxes. Seriously.
Take cooking. As a newlywed, I’d drag myself out of bed and make a full breakfast for my man. Remember this was over thirty years ago, when wives still did things like that. After a week, he confessed he didn’t like breakfast but ate it so my feelings wouldn’t be hurt. Well, I didn’t need to be told twice. I threw in the spatula and went back to bed. I didn’t make breakfast again until my son came along.
My sewing skills didn’t earn any medals either. Again, hark back to the olden days when schools still taught Home Ec. Knowing how to sew was a top priority for women. However, even my supportive, loving mother couldn’t figure out how to wear the apron I created.
And then there’s cleaning. If God is in the “big upstairs” wearing a white glove, ready to sweep it across the top of my shelves, I might as well give up now.
Fortunately, the lady in Proverbs isn’t a real woman. She’s a combination of virtues for which to strive. And that’s good news for people like me, who find “adequate” a sometimes daunting task. Even though I know God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, there are still nights I snuggle under the covers waiting for sleeping bliss, but instead my mind says, “Let me remind you how you screwed up today.”
It doesn’t help that it seems like everyone but me has their act together.
Is there some domestic secret? Why does everyone else seem to breeze through being a wife and mother, while I barely manage to limp along?
I remember one Sunday morning, between class and worship service, I caught up with a friend and fellow mother of a two-year-old.
She taught as a college professor.
Her house always looked perfect.
All the treats at her son’s birthday party were hand-crafted.
Maybe, just maybe, she could give me some tips on being perfect. Or at least help me achieve average a little more often.
“Sometimes, it just gets overwhelming,” I ventured to say as my son wiggled in my arms.
She laughed. “I know exactly what you mean. This morning my husband had to grab a pair of socks out of the dirty clothes.”
I managed to shut my mouth so it didn’t look like I was angling for someone to drop a worm in it. “The dirty clothes?”
“Yes. That’s just the way it goes some mornings, isn’t it?”
She helped me that day. Her secret wasn’t perfection. It was confidence in the fact that she didn’t have to be perfect.
So what if the cake isn’t homemade? It’s bought with love.
So what if I read a bedtime story instead of cleaning? I’ll just tell everyone the dust bunnies are pets.
So what if I’m sometimes slow at getting the laundry done? If it doesn’t smell, no one knows the difference.
No one is perfect. We tend to cut everyone else some slack while holding ourselves up to impossible standards we can never meet. So, my challenge for myself is to start treating myself like I’m my best friend. When I look in the mirror every morning, I give my best friend a compliment. When I screw up, I cut my best friend some slack.
God loves me imperfections and all.
As for the Virtuous Woman, although there are days I like to imagine her cowering beside the washer, eating chocolate and hiding from her kids, I still strive to emulate her. I’ve just learned to give myself a break when I fail.
I am a woman formed by God’s hands, shaped by His love, and saved by His sacrifice.
And that’s perfect enough for me!