The Proverbs 31 Man

Sharon Marriage 11 Comments

36

It was the end of a long day. Ike and I sat on our bed facing one another, weary from the craziness of caring for a small child. My legs were crossed on our rumpled sheets as we debriefed our respective schedules.

Since Isaac was born, these late night pow-wows have become a daily bookend to our busy lives. Each night we crawl into bed and put our heads together. We get real and have actual conversation. It’s our chance to put the day behind us, breathe, reconvene, and check in with one another.

During one of these evening chats, Ike and I were discussing my stress level. He paused, stared into my eyes, and gave me a look that said he wanted an honest answer.

“Do you feel supported by me?” he asked.

“Of course!” I replied. “I don’t know what more you could be doing!”

He furrowed his brow in earnestness. “I just want to make sure you feel supported. I want to you to know that I believe in you, and that your PhD is just as important to me as mine is. I want you to know that I believe in your writing, and what God is doing through you.”

Since that night, Ike has asked me the same question many times. It’s a question I ask him also, but I can’t help but feel surprised every time he does. I can’t help but think, “Do you really mean that? Are you just asking that so that you can be ‘the good guy’? Do you honestly care about my dreams just as much as your own?”

It’s hard for me to believe that Ike’s support is sincere because it’s counter-cultural. As a younger Christian woman I recall hearing that my husband’s calling was my calling. My calling was to support him in whatever endeavor God called him, and that was what it meant to be a biblical wife.

I heard that message often enough that now, when Ike insists that God has put a calling on my life that is different than staying home and supporting him in his calling, it feels a bit weird. It’s a little hard to believe.

However, I think there are a lot of men like Ike in the church. Some of the smartest, wisest, godliest, and ministry-minded women I know are married to men who believe in them, support them, and sharpen them. They are the women they are because of the men they married.

This past Mother’s Day, I came to understand the “iron sharpening iron” marriage even better when my pastor preached on “the Proverbs 31 Man. In his sermon he looked at the man behind the woman. We know very little about him, but we do know he was respected in the community as a leader (v. 23), that he had full confidence in her (v. 11), and that he praised her (v. 28).

That’s not a lot of information, but it’s enough to tell us something important. It tells us that the attributes, activities, and accomplishments listed in the proverb, however you want to interpret them, were not produced in a vacuum. The Proverbs 31 woman was not an independent woman in the sense of being socially autonomous…no more than her husband was independent of her.

Instead, she was one half of a strong pair. She and her husband sharpened one another like iron, creating a synergy that mutually strengthened, and then poured out as blessing onto their community.

Although I won’t compare myself to the Proverbs 31 woman, my marriage possesses a similar synergy. Both my husband and I sharpen one another in our respective callings. I am able to do all that I do, and do it well, because of the husband I have. I think he would say the same about me.

In addition to calling, my husband helps me to honor God’s commands as well, such as God’s teachings to seek Him, to trust Him, to love my neighbor, to care for the poor, to honor my parents, and to diligently care for my son. In both calling and command, my husband is my greatest resource.

Men these days get a bad rap, and for some the criticism is deserved, but today I want to celebrate the many men like my husband who are “Proverbs 31 men.” These are the men who support their wives, trust their wives, praise their wives, pray for their wives, and sharpen their wives. These men believe in their wives and exhort them to pursue God’s calling, whether that calling is to ministry, business, teaching, writing, or being a stay-at-home mom. These men help their wives to be better disciples, friends, mothers, and daughters.

Although God can certainly grow men and women without a spouse who sharpens them (that’s what the church is for!), marriage can be a powerful tool for the Kingdom of God when a husband and wife are committed to stewarding one another’s gifts. I am grateful to be married to a man who believes he will be held accountable for stewarding mine, and bears the responsibility with joy.

Ike makes me a better student, better thinker, better writer, better mom, better wife, and better follower of Christ. He is a means of grace in my life, and I want to celebrate him. But I also want to celebrate all you men out there who love and support your wives with the same life-giving confidence. To those of you whose wives have been great friends and co-laborers in my faith, THANK YOU! And to those of you I don’t know, who are out there stewarding your own corner of influence, THANK YOU to you too. We are so grateful for your care, your sacrifice, and your commitment to God. You are, simply put, Christ to us.

Happy Father’s Day!

Comments 11

  1. Cliff

    Well, I’m not married yet, but this is the kind of relationship I’m gunning for. I don’t a woman who just takes a backseat – I want her to be active, pursuing her own calling and letting me support her as she supports me! It’s good to read that this actually happens and isn’t just some pipe dream.

  2. Jada

    Thank you for writing this. I am grateful I have this relationship with my husband, where we mutually celebrate and support one another in our unique callings.

  3. Kerri

    Love this post, Sharon. As an evangelical woman who does not fit the traditional mold, I have often been wounded in the church. So thankful for a husband who loves Jesus and also encourages me to live out my giftedness.

  4. Margaret Philbrick

    Thanks so much for writing this. My husband is a Proverbs 31 man and your article reminded me of that and gave me a great idea of what to do for him for father’s day! Thank you and God bless as you care for your adorable son and loving husband:)

  5. Carol J. Marshall

    What a beautiful tribute for Fathers Day! You have described how I feel about my own husband–after 35 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart he is indeed a Proverbs 31 man. “These men believe in their wives and exhort them to pursue God’s calling…These men help their wives to be better disciples, friends, mothers, and daughters.” I am a deeper, richer, fuller woman because of the man God blessed me with. Thanks be to God!

  6. Tim

    Love this line Sharon: ‘the attributes, activities, and accomplishments listed in the proverb, however you want to interpret them, were not produced in a vacuum.” So true. In fact, I think they are produced not because a wife and husband are involved together, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit guiding men and women both in God’s wisdom.

    And I just about clapped when you said you didn’t compare yourself to the Proverbs 31 woman., no one should. She never existed, and it’s a disservice when churches teach that passage as if this is an achievable norm for women to live by.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  7. David Goodman

    This is good stuff Sharon.

    One thing that Bethany and I built into our wedding vows was to support each other in our mutual calling. This is predicated on the idea that God would not call us to exclusive callings, but also was an effort to validate that Bethany was a unique and valuable person before God that he intended to use. I think that seeing life as our calling goes even one step further in creating a team relationship and helps the individual see their activity as effecting the other. A husband’s calling is to support his wife’s calling every bit as much as it is for her to support her’s. Confusion on that probably comes from a failure to meditate on what it means to give yourself up for your wife like Christ and the church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *