In 1959, an ingenuitive mom in California created a doll for her daughter to play with, and it rocked the nation. Barbies are now found in most homes of little girls, and their tiny high-heeled shoes are the bane of many a barefoot parent’s existence (allegedly only rivaled by legos). According to the Mattel website, Barbie has taken on 180 careers, “inspiring girls everywhere to be anything.”
If we were to mesh all of Barbie’s history into one woman, she would most certainly die of a coffee overdose and lack of sleep after a long, tragic meltdown. Not to mention a huge commitment problem: she would have changed jobs like once every four months for her entire life. But we know that Barbie isn’t one person; she’s the embodiment of one idea and has lots of different expressions to choose from. So Astronaut Barbie, Pilot Barbie, and President Barbie are three distinct individuals portraying the same dream: to help girls be creative in who they want to be. Makes sense, right? One woman taking on 180 careers totally doesn’t.
But then, we see a woman in Scripture who seems to fit this completely unrealistic picture, and ladies have bent over backwards throughout the centuries trying to emulate her.
The Proverbs 31 woman.
In this fantastic biblestudytools.com article, Stephen Altrogge argues that the heroine/Mrs. Everything Ever winner is not intended to be a DNA copy machine but to inspire the creative living-out of biblical traits. He says that Mrs. Proverbs 31 is included for “principles to be pursued, NOT practices to be prescribed.” (And all of the women who aren’t good with their lamps not going out at night heave a collective sigh of relief.) Somehow, though, we have turned her from a glorious beacon of hope to an “unstoppable female juggernaut who conquers life with little or no difficulty. No woman has inspired more books, ministries, blogs, conferences, devotionals, mugs, feelings of guilt, and self-loathing than her.”
Now that I know she’s not a checklist to work through (blood would be shed if I attempted sewing—or getting up before dawn) but a set of characteristics (hello, diligence, wisdom, and generosity) to work out in my own unique manner, I’ve got to admit: I’m massively intrigued by this figure. So I’ll be contemplating her ways and filling you in on my findings once a month as different aspects come up. If her purpose really is to inspire creativity, I won’t let her down.
The thing is, the Proverbs 31 woman is called virtuous, a woman of valor. God filled Scripture with heroines, and this lady takes her place among Abigail, Esther, Shiphrah and Puah, Ruth, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Rahab, Sarah, and Mary (pretty much all of the Marys, actually). And because she is possibly the biblical Barbie rather than an actual individual person, we can find the space to breathe again and acknowledge where we and others are already being virtuous women of valor without bringing our food from afar. (Jesus allows takeout? Yes. Yes, He does.)
As a parting thought, Proverbs 31 principles can play out in a variety of ways. Being diligent might not look like purchasing real estate; it might be cutting coupons or going to a seminar or reading a book or putting your phone down when your husband is home. (And if you struggle with perfectionism and appearance, maybe ordering some takeout would be good for you once in a while.) And each is an act worthy of praise. This emphasis on living out the character of a noble woman will replace burdens with blessing. Churches are filled with heroines—and, unless you’re one of the brave, brave men who read this, so is your mirror.