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 (Manna 52: Spiritual Renewal)
Contemplations of an Aspiring Prudent Wife
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Contemplations of an Aspiring Prudent Wife

SL—New Haven, Connecticut

Weddings are such happy occasions I wish I were invited to more weddings! It’s one of a few events that is filled with lots of pretty things: flower arrangements, ingenious use of fabrics and creative decorations, lots of gourmet food (by my standards) and, of course, lots of happy people with lots of good wishes.

Many people spend years dreaming about their ideal wedding day, and a lot more money actually planning and materializing those dreams. Unfortunately, a considerable proportion of such people haven’t spent half as much time preparing for what happens after saying “I do.”

But why should that be the more important consideration? The fact is, marriage is not about wedding days. It is about going through banalities day after day and a considerable amount of ups and downs of different sorts. More significantly, you have to go through all of these as one united entity with another person, someone who has lived his or her life completely apart from and differently than you.

Being one who did not exactly prepare myself for what happens after saying “I do,” I confess that I haven’t memorized a single pointer on “how to be a good Christian wife”—though I suspect self-help versions of such are out there on bookshelves. I have, however, noted quite a few biblical verses about the prudent wife over the years of sermon listening and Bible reading. I reckon I should at some point rehearse some of these teachings, and for various reasons, one being that prevention is better than cure, I should do it early in my marriage rather than later.

MARRIAGE—AN EQUITABLE RELATIONSHIP FOR BOTH HUSBAND AND WIFE

The Bible has a lot of direct descriptions of the virtuous woman or the prudent wife. Interestingly, the number of admonitions for the man and husband do not match up proportionately.

In the Old Testament, there are almost no explicit teachings about how to be a good husband. The New Testament does provide a few clear guidelines for the Christian husband. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul tells husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph 5:25), and that they “ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28).

To love another person as yourself and to even give yourself for her is not an easy thing. Adhering to such a principle in everyday life requires an enormous amount of love and self-denial. This is no easy task. It is no wonder that if a woman really finds such a husband, she ought to submit to him as the church submits to Christ (Eph 5:22, 24)! On this count, I suppose feminists who quibble about this issue of submission can relax and breathe.

Actually, the many explicit teachings the Bible gives to the woman are not aimed at us becoming docile and passive. It’s about fulfilling our side of the equation without losing our identities or selves. With moderation and wisdom, we will thus gain a position on par with our husbands, but in a different capacity, playing a different role.

The whole Bible is about God’s love. This statement sounds simplified, but it is true. The husband has a lifetime to learn to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave up His life for her. The principle is given, and the details are up the individual to work out according to his unique situation. One lifetime may not even be enough for such a difficult lesson.

As for the wife, much as there are explicit statements in the Bible, these specifics are definitely not unbending restrictions. Instead, they are open to interpretation and modifications depending on the stage of life she is in and the mores of her society.

THE PRUDENT WIFE IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

The Book of Proverbs is an all-time favorite book of wise sayings. It is a good place to begin searching for tips about how to be a good wife. Chapter 31 of Proverbs is almost entirely devoted to a break-down of the things that a prudent wife would do for her husband, children and herself.

A prudent wife is a rare find; her worth is far above the rubies (v. 10). She’s definitely worth a second glance, in fact, a close reference, for anyone who wants to be a good wife by biblical standards.

On doing good for her family

The prudent wife is one whose husband trusts her, for she does him good and sees that he has no lack of gain (v. 11, 12). This sounds easy because wives naturally want good to come upon their husbands. Yet, we know that the best intentions do not always necessitate the best outcomes. This is where wisdom and prayer come in prominently.

Wisdom is acquired when one reflects and learns from experience, both from one’s own and others’, and from a good, contemplative relationship with God. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Prov 21:2). Self-questioning plus reverent prayers go a long way in a wife’s role as a support for the husband’s walk in life and with God.

After years of marriage, husbands and wives tend to become calibrated in their views about a lot of things. Sometimes such a merge may not necessarily be a good thing. Being the one closest to her spouse, who can freely communicate with the husband, the wife should be the one to signal the red alert if the husband’s views are not in accordance with biblical principles.

It is therefore imperative that the prudent wife stay prayerful, maintain a close relationship with God, and try to be objective. There are enough couples in the Bible that collaborated and incurred God’s displeasure; we don’t need more of those.

A prudent wife is one who works hard for her family (v. 13-19). Whether she is a full-time wife or mom, or has a career, she works towards having her family well-provided for. In today’s complex society, I would say that refers not only to physical sustenance like making sure the family has healthy meals; it probably also involves emotional and mental providence for the family. Being there when the children and husband need a firm and feminine support is crucial to their psychological well-being and growth.

On self-improvement

She does not “eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27). The idle mind likes to wander—often in trivial, and sometimes in undesirable, directions. One of the favorite activities of an idle mind is gossiping and poking one’s nose into things that are really none of her business.

When a woman forms a habit of gossiping, it is pathetic. She who has an idle mind is unlikely to be one who can “open her mouth with wisdom” nor have “the law of kindness” on her tongue (v. 26), since gossiping will never improve one’s mind or spirit.

A prudent wife should bring a good name to her husband (v. 23). A gossipy wife will never succeed on that one. Perhaps her husband is known in the gates, but alas, he definitely prefers to be unknown than to be known for having a gossipy wife!

On public displays of displeasure

One of the things a wife needs to know (or learn) is that she should avoid embarrassing her husband in front of others. I have seen a lot of women who complain openly to others about their husbands, even in their presence.

Sure, we have our complaints. No man is a perfect husband. But, at the very least, in the presence of others, we should not publicly show our disdain or displeasure. After all, we made the choice to become his wife. As the old saying goes, “do not air dirty linen in public.” Instead of encouraging improvement, public displays of annoyance or dissatisfaction may get habituated and spiral into further self-fulfilling prophecies we have about our husbands.

It is common in today’s world to see wives with better education or greater earning power than their husbands. It is especially important that the more able wife does not flaunt her “superiority” in front of others. Marriage should be founded on mutual respect, so the same goes for the husband on this issue.

On caring for herself

“She makes tapestry for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple” (v. 22). At first glance, this verse may appear to contradict an oft-cited verse from 1 Peter 3:3, 4: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward . . . or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

But a closer reading reveals a caveat: a woman’s adornment should not “merely” be outward. Of course, inner beauty is more important than any form of outward beauty. But, inner virtue and outward beauty do not necessarily preclude each other. It is also ridiculous to infer that the presence of one indicates the absence of the other or that there is any natural relationship whatsoever. These two can definitely co-exist happily and, with all sympathies, an absence of both in one person is possible as well.

The modern-day equivalent of the woman who makes tapestry for herself and wears fine linen is not the one who wears top designer labels or expensive clothes. Caring for and grooming oneself is the result of self-respect and discipline, not vanity. Being able to care for oneself is the basis of being able to go on to love others.

THE PRUDENT WIFE—A PERPETUAL WORK IN PROGRESS

Proverbs 19:14 tells us that a prudent wife is from the Lord. No one is born a prudent wife. From the side of the woman, it is something she can learn to become. From the perspective of a man, it is something that he can pray about and choose wisely.

Marriage needs two to work. It is a blessing to even have someone to walk life’s path with, so we should strive to make it a pleasant journey. As life continuously springs surprises on us, working out a beautiful life together requires lots of patience and diligence. May all aspiring prudent wives-to-be find their husbands praying and working hard to be great husbands too!

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Author: SL
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