Friday, September 30, 2011

Dignity and Humor

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet...She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:10-21; 25 NIV)

This study of the Proverbs 31 woman has been so rich for me. I hope you have enjoyed it, too. If you're just joining in you can review the earlier posts by clicking on the links in the passage above. The Proverbs 31 woman has always been a bit intimidating to me because of all she does, but recently God has been reminding me that He is more interested in who I am than in what I do. I decided to look into the character of this woman and see if I can learn more about "how to be" from her. It's been really encouraging so far.

There are two interesting juxtapositions in today's verse that I never noticed before. First, earlier in the passage (not quoted above) we are told that this woman is clothed in fine linen and purple (verse 22.) At this time period wearing linen signified that you were part of the noble class, and wearing purple meant you were royalty, or rich enough to be. Still the emphasis seems to be more on her spiritual attire of strength and dignity. There is symbolism in this for us. Personally my wardrobe could use a lot of gussying up. That show "What Not to Wear" would have itself quite a field day with my closet. I have clothing from high school (that still fits!) and mostly wear jeans, big t-shirts, and well-worn flannel shirts. I go for comfort and practicality and most "stylish" things just don't seem to fit either criteria...not to mention they're way out of our budget. However, even if my physical clothing isn't fit for the fashion runway, my spiritual clothing can be pleasing to the eye: noble and precious, strong and dignified. Dignity (honour in KJV) is the Hebrew word hadar (haw-dawr'; ^ over both a's) and means ornament, splendor, beauty, excellence, or majesty. It is derived from the primary root word hadar (haw-dar'; ^ only over the first a) which means to swell up, to favor, honor, or put forth. Needless to say it is a quality that makes this woman stand out in a crowd in a way that draws admiration from others. We can wear this dignity with anything - it is the perfect accessory for every outfit.

The second point is the seemingly contradictory characteristics of dignity and humor. She is clothed with dignity, yet she laughs at the days ahead. I have often wondered at this turn of phrase. When I look at the days to come I rarely laugh, unless nervous laughter counts. I'm usually the one biting my nails worrying about every possible outcome and not at all confident that I'll have what it takes to persevere. There was a time when I would actually worry if I didn't have something to worry about, so I've come a long way, but it's all too easy to let my mind run to the worst possible scenarios. This woman looks at the days ahead with confidence, joy, and a sense of humor. One might think that dignity and humor don't fit in the same personality, but here we see that the strength and dignity to face the future is the very root of good humor. With all of the uncertainty and fear-mongering that abounds in our society the secret of dignified humor will be key to stepping forward with confidence in the days ahead.

Let's join the Proverbs 31 woman and look ahead with joy in our hearts, assured that our future is secure.


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