The Sweet Christian Bride

Proverbs 31 Wife: Sacrificial

by admin on March 15, 2012 in Faith, Family, Relationship with 52 Comments

“She rises while it is still night

And provides food for her household

And tasks for her servant-girls” (Proverbs 31:15).

Of all things I value most, sleep ranks near the top.  I go to bed at 9 most nights because I need at least nine hours of sleep.  Others can run on little sleep, but not this girl.  I get headaches, I’m cranky, I cry at ridiculous things, and I rarely spend the precious, little energy I do have to lift my cheeks into a smile.  Therefore, I need to intentionally prioritize sleep, so I can be a nice, joyful person the next day.  So what do you do with a passage like Proverbs 31:15?

For a woman to rise while it is still night yet to keep her lamp from going out during the night (v 18), it’s easy to think that a Proverbs 31 Wife must sacrifice all of her hours on doing work for other people.  She is not allowed to sleep, and thinking of doing so is just downright selfish.

No way, friend!

A rested woman is a peaceful woman whom God can use and certainly whom God adores.  I don’t think self-care is being disputed in this passage.  In order to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we must actually love ourselves.  I don’t mean in the prideful, selfish way, but in the way of good stewardship of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits.  The way that champions the truth that we are highly valued by God and thus we too need to value ourselves through His eyes and for His glory.

So if this passage is not talking about self-martyrdom through sleep deprivation, what is it saying?

The most sacrificial people I know when it comes to giving up time and energy are new parents.  They have learned to have their quality time after their children are in bed, and they have learned to rise when it is still night (many times, in fact.)  And yet, they still have their jobs to work during the day and their relationships with God and people to maintain.  Somehow, they find it in them to be tired for the sake of caring for their children.  Not to say that if sleep were offered to them they wouldn’t take it, but to say that they are choosing to re-prioritize their wants (and sometimes needs) in order to prioritize their children’s needs.  This is sacrificial love.

I believe what this passage is instructing is for our daily lives to be run by this sacrificial love.  We shouldn’t be hoarding “me time” at the expense of our household.

Picture the stereo-typical stay-at-home Los Angeles mom (and then adapt for where you live).  They hire a cleaning staff for the home and a nanny (or two) for the child so they can continue to upkeep their regiment of “me time,” which often includes Bible studies, book clubs, Pilates classes, beauty treatments, gym time, creative outlet time, and of course, time with the girls.  

None of these things are bad, but when a wife’s (or in this illustration, a mom’s) “wants” are valued as “needs” at the expense of quality time with her family, caring for the home, planning for her family’s future, or actively demonstrating love and respect to her husband, then she is shirking her holy responsibility as a wife.  Usually there is also a root issue that makes her interpret her “wants” as “needs.”

We wives should put the hours and attention into our career, our health, our rest, our time with God, and our social time in order to maintain our threshold of self-care, but usually no more than that lest will feel bitter when called upon to sacrifice our time, energy, or leisure (I’m referring to our normal routines, not necessarily to exceptions like birthdays or vacations).  Our husbands should not get the left-overs of our time and energy, or even the left-overs of our sacrificial love.

For example, in our second year of marriage, I quit my job so that I could write.  Although I had my husband’s support in that decision, we hadn’t realized that our expectations for that time off work were very different.  I would see a friend or talk on the phone every day because friendships were important to maintain.  I would go to the gym every day because exercise made my body feel better.  I would have two hour daily quiet times because my relationship with God mattered more than anything else.  I would do all the errands and chores that I could  because that was my way of contributing to our household.  I did the finances because I had more time than he did to do it.  Yet what he had wanted most from me was to be writing.  That was, after all, why I had quit my job and significantly reduced our income.  

When he saw me fill my time with what I thought was necessary for me and not have any writing to show for it, he felt unconsidered.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have asked him how I could honor him with my time and energy rather than assume that his ways would be my ways.  Instead, I was prioritizing me.

A Proverbs 31 Wife also knows the needs of her household (which usually means she works towards good communication) and strategizes or plans ahead to make sure they are met.  This is how she is able to “provide food for her household and tasks for her servant girls” (v15).  By trusting in her team and planning ahead, she is able to delegate to others rather than to demand control over everything in her domain.  And in sacrificing her control, she equips her household as best she can for the tasks that she has shared with them.

What is means for you to love sacrificially will depend largely on what you need in order to be a good steward of yourself for God’s sake and also on what your husband needs from you in order to receive your love and respect.

One of my “needs” that I had to learn how to sacrifice as I planned ahead for my household was reminding my husband to do things. For me, reminders were a selfish attempt at controlling everything; they were not loving messages of encouragement. Your call to sacrifice in love for your husband might look totally different.

Regardless, as wives, and maybe someday as mothers, we are charged with responsibilities.  The role of a wife is a privilege that God takes very seriously.  Not only does He want us to fulfill the Godly duties He has put before us as wives, but He also wants us to receive the fullness of joy that comes with blessing others from our position as wives.

This might mean you should take rain check on that art class that you don’t really have time for.  It might mean going to a regular gym rather than a yoga studio in order to free up money.  It might mean exerting discipline in daily exercise rather than depending on massages to loosen you up.  It might mean sitting out a season of book club so your husband can play a season of softball.  It might mean getting up before dawn in order to make sure your time with God is uninterrupted each day.

Whatever it is, try to lose the phrase, “I just need to do this for myself,” from your vocabulary.  Usually what that means is we are trying to root our identity in results rather than in Christ.  Or it means that there is a problem in our marriage that we aren’t willing to work on and would rather distract ourselves from.  Or, often, it means that we are finding happiness in indulgence rather than in the charges that God has anointed us with in this season; it shows a lack of contentment with the role God has us in, and it shows a distrust that He is providing us with all that we need.

When your hearts wants to grumble about the charges you are given, remember that God’s design always proves worthy. Often the greatest blessings you will receive are those which stem from your own sacrifices.

By Lindsay
  • Trackbacks

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    Tuesday, 20 March, 2012

    […] means foregoing for yourself until all the needs are met for the others.  This goes back to being sacrificial (not to be confused with a self-martyr).  It might mean wearing the same party dress for five […]

  • Trackback from Proverbs 31 Wife: Strong | The Sweet Christian Bride
    Thursday, 22 March, 2012

    […] Through today’s lens, this passage seems like it’s instructing a Proverbs 31 Wife to master P90X and join a Cross Fit gym, or at least to bench press more than just the bar.  Cringe.  How can we possibly have time to exercise consistently in addition to all this getting up while it’s dark stuff? […]

  • Trackback from Proverbs 31 Wife: Loved | The Sweet Christian Bride
    Tuesday, 10 April, 2012

    […] to obey Him and hope for His reward in due time, that she can endure in her hard work and in her sacrifice with cheer in her heart.  Her children and husband speak just a whispered echo of what her […]

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