I met spoken word artist Cherrie Amour a few weeks ago and she was kind enough to give me a copy of her CD, Love's Journey: Spoken Songs. The third piece on the recording, "Six Figures", made me think and re-think about how we choose someone to love.
Growing up in a conservative church, I recall no lessons in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School about how to choose someone to love. Perhaps the implication of this was that the girls could not afford to be choosy and would accept the earliest or best offer (of marriage, that is) that came along.
As it turned out, many of us decided to be choosy. Some of us were right-choosy and some of us were wrong-choosy. Some of us were in-the-middle choosy. As someone said to me recently, it is unclear how effective our choosiness was in helping us find happiness. But we found what we found.
Considering that marriages in the Biblical era were prearranged by family elders, the holy book is nearly silent on the self-selection dating and mating process. The Old Testament book of Proverbs is filled with witticisms about what type of woman to avoid. In contrast, Proverbs chapter 31 describes a woman who is often held up as a model of efficient domesticity coupled with total mastery of a mind-numbing multitasking. Was this woman in Proverbs 31 real? Does she sound real to you? Read some of Proverbs chapter 31:
10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
I like the portion that reads "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." But I'm still unsure about how real this woman may have been. The verses state she had servant girls. Maybe if I had servant girls, I could do all of those things, too. As things are, if I think for too long of the Proverbs 31 woman, images of a kinder, gentler Star Trek Borg Queen pop into my mind.
The Proverbian approach to love may be useful for men, but what's a woman to do? If you happen to have a matchmaking woman elder a la Naomi (read the Old Testament Book of Ruth) nearby, good for you! Be patient and take her advice. For the rest of us, I guess it's "go figure." Do we need six figures, or will five do?