Today’s author, Jill Maria Murdy, is the younger sister of a family friend. My mom started working with her older brother when I was probably 3 or 4. We got to know each other last year when I started making liturgist jokes on her brother’s Facebook. These days, she’s my late night chat buddy on Facebook and graciously agreed to write something for this. ?
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life ?? exclaims the NRSV translation of Proverbs 31: 12, but it is hard to ask ??what does this mean??? without putting it in the context of the whole chapter of Proverbs 31: 10-31. One could go down the list of skills and gifts presented in the scripture and come up with a similar, albeit updated list of skills of the wife or woman today.
Sometimes people pick and choose which verses of this passage they want, and you end up hearing ??Yep. The good wife, she cooks and cleans, and takes care of the men.?? But that is the smallest degree of what was said in the first place. Sometimes the passage is called ??the valiant wife?? or ??worthy wife.?? ??She is more precious than jewels.?? Take a look at the passage and then reflect on it. Perhaps she works with fine arts instead of wool and flax, or clips coupons instead of bringing her food from far away.
Maybe she rises early to take the children to school, write her blog and pray, or do a task at home before heading out to her own job. She may be a land owner or investor, and finds time to work out at the gym. Late night she is busy paying the bills, and managing the family??s calendar for the week. She waits for the repairman for the garbage disposal, and reminds her husband of the ??honey do list?? of chores which must be done to maintain the house. She is involved in volunteer work and helps at the domestic violence shelter and the food pantry.
Her house is sturdy, and she cares for her belongings and pays her electric bill on time. She is not afraid of the snow as the kids have warm clothes. Perhaps it may be chaotic, but the household is filled with love. She or her husband may hold public office, and perhaps she is a successful businesswoman, or holds her own roles within the church or community. Her identity is not dependent upon his, but they support each other.
Time and beauty may pass, but still they are happy as they continue to love and grow together.
So if we go back to the original premise, ??She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life ??, who??s life would not be richer for having this woman, this lover, this friend along side them? She is exercising the virtues which come naturally from being a good woman. These are the skills she learned from her mother, and every generation of women has been down to those who follow them since long before Proverbs was ever written.
Jill Maria Murdy is the director of Liturgy and Music at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend WI. This is a large parish with 2300 families, 6000 members. She grew up in a small Montana town. She is a frequent writer and contributor to many liturgical publications. She also has a background in small rural communities, and Benedictine Monasticism.
In her current ministry she plans about 70 funerals a year. The Proverbs passage is frequently discussed so she has had many chances to reflect on it.