My grandmother once told me “Son, a good woman is hard to find.” The longer I live, the more I think that it’s the fault of bad men that this saying may be accurate. But what does that even mean after all? Good according to what measure? Is it looks? We all know that physical beauty is fleeting. Is it intelligence? Using what standard? All of this feels so arbitrary. No wonder so many women fall into the confusing trap of trying to measure up to some artificial standard. We, men, fall into the same trap ourselves. Let’s face it, the modern world really has no idea what makes a “good” person.
In fact, let me go further and say I have come to believe it is absolutely necessary for my own repentance and humility to question my own definitions of loaded words like “good” “justice” “fairness” or even “faithfulness” because my own heart is gripped all too often by my own delusions. Without this humility, we humans will never get out of our own way to allow God to set these definitions and trust Him that He knows best. It is behind my own suspicions of the constant call of “dialogue” that usually means “we” want to talk you into our own ideas and values.
But the Lord loves us and He hasn’t left us to our own devices. Wed can find a “good” woman IF we allow God to define “good.” And here He does just that.
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 31:8-31:
Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy. A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Looking at the characteristics of this “good wife” here in this passage and I see the wisdom in how to be a good person, both husband and wife!
This “good wife” is trustworthy, dependable, judicious, industrious, fair-minded, insightful, of good reputation, and on and on and on. I read this list and think to myself “Wow, I wish I were like that!”
And that’s the point, my angels. You aren’t to look at this list and see all the ways you fall short. You are meant to look at this list and see all the ways you are called to the humility of an honest confession. None of us are ever able to always measure up. We stumble. We fall. We disappoint each other. We sin. But, at the end of the day, do we fear God in that we know He loves us and asks only we run to Him for forgiveness and strength.
We look at the description of this virtuous woman and we only see how much we aren’t like that. And, at this moment, we have two choices: We can throw up our hands and fall into the trap and lie of despondency and condemnation OR we can run to the Father Who loves us more than we, ourselves, know how to love and cry out the prayer the Church teaches us to pray every moment: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” The whole point of Lazarus Saturday is to tell us that there is never a reason to lose hope! We can’t live up to the “good” described here, but Christ CAN living in and through us. All it takes is our willingness to get out of the driver’s seat in our lives and let Him direct us.
The Righteous George, the bishop of Mytilene refused to deny the theology behind our veneration of the holy Icons when the Church was in an uproar concerning icons in the 9th century. He refused to allow us to define “good” or “bad” ourselves and insisted that the theology of the Incarnation is what sets these standards, not the whim of societal pressures or ever-changing and fickled sensibilities of inconstant humans. He stood firm in humility and fidelity and helped preserve for us the heavenly beauty that calls our souls to a higher place! He reposed in peace in 851 AD. May his memory be eternal.
Today, we stand at the threshold of Holy Week. We have completed the Fast. We haven’t been perfect. We’ve stumbled. But that NEVER should stand in our way of mercy and God’s love. Even the death of Lazarus won’t stop the joy of Jesus! Living a Normal Orthodox life means there is ALWAYS hope! let me end with a prayer request. Our parish is blessed with many converts who are being received into the Church this holy season. Please pray for my stamina as we have multiple baptisms, longer services, and a Holy Week filled with exhausting joy! Thanks
P.S. As a garden planted by the Spirit, you did yield as fruit the soul’s salvation, teaching men the ineffable mysteries of Him that fell as a grain of wheat in the earth and by His dying has made all the world to live. Righteous Father George, entreat Christ our God on our behalf, that His great mercy may be granted unto us.