Rev. L. Althouse
May 28, 2006
Background Scripture: Proverbs 31. Devotional Reading: Proverbs 4:10-15.
Little did I realize a little more than a month ago when I read Proverbs 31:10-31 as a tribute to my wife, Valere, at her 80th birthday party, that I would soon be writing on it. This is probably the Bible’s finest tribute to wives, and it can be extended to mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and friends: the celebration of a beautiful woman.
But, how can I say that in light of 31:30? “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain …” That is the only mention of beauty in Proverbs 31, and it is negative. My response is that the “vain” beauty of 31:30 refers to physical beauty and “vain” here means “transitory.”
So, I agree that it is generally true that physical beauty does not last as we grow older. But, in the next line we read, “But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” He doesn’t use the word “beautiful,” but I don’t think he would disagree that, although physical attractiveness usually fades as we grow older, “a woman who fears the Lord” can be praised because she is beautiful within.
No matter what her external visage, a woman whom meets the criteria of 31:10-31 is beautiful throughout. The key to this inner beauty is fruitfulness: she is trustworthy, does her husband good, and is a willing worker. This good woman is a provider and manager. She is fruitful, innovative, industrious, confident, wise and responsive to those in need. She teaches kindness, not only with words, but also with deeds. Her greatest reward? “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Even though we live in a radically different time than when this passage was written, it is applicable. The ways of being fruitful have been greatly enlarged, but fruitfulness is still the attribute that keeps or makes people beautiful and inspires us to salute them: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (31:29)
Even if we are born as “ugly ducklings,” we can grow into “beautiful swans.”
Eleanor Roosevelt was thought an “ugly duckling.” But there was a swan inside her, struggling to be seen. One day, Louis Howe, FDR’s advisor and confidant, asked her to take a drive with him. As they pulled into a large encampment, she asked him: “Louis, what is this place and what are we going to do here?”
“This is where the Bonus Army is quartered,” he answered, “and you are going in there and talk to those men, get their gripes, if any, make a tour of the camp and tell them that Franklin sent you out to see about them.”
The swan within
Patrick Anderson reports that “She performed magnificently, walking through ankle-deep mud to shake hands, talk, and sing with the old soldiers. Afterward, one veteran said, ‘Hoover sent the army: Roosevelt sent his wife.’”
When she died, I was fortunate to be able to attend her funeral amidst an array of presidents and former presidents, national political figures, statesmen, and non-VIPs like my-self, who had seen the beauty in her emerge and flower.
Marie Stopes wrote, “When at 16, I was vain because someone praised me, my father said, ‘They are only praising your youth. You can take no credit for beauty at 16. But if you are beautiful at 60, it will be your own soul’s doing. Then you may be proud of it and loved for it.’”
Regardless of your age, are you beautiful?
This farm news was published in the May 24, 2006 issue of Farm World.