Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Character of a Keeper at Home -- Virtuous, worthy, excellent, able

So far, we've been reviewing some basic concepts that will help us prepare to be women of greater excellence in the home. It's interesting that the word which is translated in various versions of English language Bibles as worthy, virtuous, or excellent is used at least three times in the OT to describe women:

Our first example is what Boaz said to Ruth in Ruth 3:11: And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest, for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

Proverbs 12:4 says, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

And, of course, Proverbs 31:10 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies."

Gesenius' Lexicon says that the word translated as virtuous in these instances comes from the Hebrew word "chayil"חַיִל

Chayil can mean strength, power, and might (especially of an army) or valor. It also means ability, virtue, uprightness, integrity, or fitness. It can also symbolize the strength of a tree as measured by its fruits.

In the case of the Proverbs 31 woman, chayil is used in the sense of virtue and capability. It describes a woman who is able and capable, fit for her tasks, full of good character and integrity, and with the moral and physical strength to be faithful to her work.

King Lemuel's mother is urging him to marry a woman who is prepared to be an excellent wife. Chayil can describe an army that is battle-ready. Thus, she instructs her son to find a wife who is noble and trained in the skills and virtues she will need to be the wife of a noble and worthy man.

We know from other verses in the Bible that a woman's strength must be combined with gentleness and a quiet and surrendered spirit. She is not to be chayil in the sense of being warlike or combative. She does endeavor, however, to be a faithful, noble, virtuous wife who meets her life's work in the home with quiet strength and dignity.

We can look at the list of virtues and abilities possessed by the worthy woman and faint from the awesomeness of the role we play as keepers of the home. Here's an important thing to remember. The worthy woman derives her strength and dignity from the Lord. We do not become chayil on our own power, but as we daily submit to and depend on God to help us.

In the culture of the virtuous woman, young girls did receive training that prepared them to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home. Today, many women do not receive the training they need before setting up their apartment as a single or getting married or having children or learning how to turn their skills into at-home businesses, if applicable. Thus, many start out with great dreams for their adult life, but flounder when they find that they don't know how to train children or manage a household or love a husband or stay within a budget or trust God in the trials and emergencies of life. I believe that's one reason why so many women find themselves to be unhappy in the home. No one enjoys a career for which they are ill-trained.

The great thing is that we don't have to stay in our untrained state. We have so many avenues for learning available to us: God's training of us, the scriptures, the example of other women who are excellent in the home, books, courses, and Internet sites written by women who offer home keeping advice. The more we learn how to fulfill our roles well, the happier we'll be.

Even if you did receive a good foundation before getting married, you should continue growing as a chayil woman. Most careers have continuing education programs for managers. We begin with whatever foundation we have received, and we build on that. The woman whose foundation was solid to begin with will make faster progress, but even those of us with weaker foundations will be able to learn and apply what we need to learn in order to be happy and effective.

One question we need to ask ourselves is "Are we bringing up chayil daughters?" Are our daughters capable and ready for the domestic side of adult life? Even if a daughter chooses a career outside the home, her life will be richer if she possesses skills in keeping with those of the woman in Proverbs 31. Her life will also be enriched if she has a heart like the worthy woman.

Again, the skills it takes to manage a modern household will not look exactly like those needed by the worthy woman in her day. For example, most of us won't need to grow a vineyard in order to obtain nourishing fluids and medicine for our family. But, we can have the same heart as the worthy woman did, along with training in the skills that we do need.

For both boys and girls, education is not complete if they do not know how to love the Lord, how to grow in faith and godliness with integrity, and how to build a home life. Though academics and being prepared for a job is important, training in faith and in godly living is even more crucial. Teaching our children to be prepared for a whole and complete life -- not just to go after success in one career path -- is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Happy Home Keeping!

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