Wild Lectionary: What is a good wife anyways?

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Photo by Caitlin Reilley Beck

18th Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 20 (25)B

Proverbs 31:10-31

By Caitlin Reilley Beck

A capable 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.
Proverbs 31:10-11

This passage makes it clear who is writing Scripture and who isn’t. It reads like the vision board of the patriarchy, and capitalism for that matter, though it doesn’t originate in this economic system. According to this reading, the dream is to have a wife who will do a thousand different things – truly she is  one who works to “have it all.” Except, surprise, surprise, she only gets “a share in the fruit of her hands” (31:31). If this is the Bible’s job posting for being a wife in a straight, monogamous marriage, it could use some workshopping because it is not very appealing.

This reading prompted me to ask, what if someone else got to write about what it means to be a wife? What if we heard the voices of the wives whose lives are discussed here? What if we heard the voices of single people or widows or queer people or those who practice ethical non-monogamy? What if we heard the voices of the earth and all her creatures speaking about the ways that we have acted in our relationship with her? So I decided to do a bit of rewriting and take some creative license in search of these voices.

A Good Wife’s Proverbs

31:10 How can I live up to these impossible standards? I am not better than any other woman around.

31:11 My husband has a list of expectations for me a mile long, and I have to meet them and make myself valuable to him.

31:12 I need to take care of him, this is my job now and it will be for the rest of my life.

31:13 I find plants to harvest to make our clothing.

31:14 I make sure we have all the best food to eat.

31:15 Sometimes that means that I am up from before dawn and I need as much help as I can find to get the food ready.

31:16 I make sure we have land that will grow what we need and I am the one who plants and harvests.

31:17 It is hard, back-breaking work, but I make sure that my body isn’t broken by it.

31:18 I know how to make the most profit from all the things I make and grow. Sometimes this means I don’t even get to sleep at night.

31:19 I have all the skills to make clothing from scratch myself.

31:20 The poor and needy in my community are also my responsibility. I make sure that they are being provided for.

31:21 No matter what the weather brings, my household is taken care of.

31:22 I make beautiful clothes for myself as well, ones that people know are valuable.

31:23 My husband isn’t around to help, he has more important things to do.

31:24 But I don’t need his help; I use my own skills to make a living for my family.

31:25 All this work has made me strong and capable and I know that I can do what it takes.

31:26 I am no fool, I know that I need the help of the other women around me and I speak up for them when they need me to.

31:27 I take care of every need of every person in my household, and it is a non-stop job.

31:28 My kids know that they can count on me and that this is what I am supposed to do; my husband sees that I know how to be the wife he expects and he praises me:

31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who knows her place is to be praised.

31:31 My endless efforts may not ensure my needs are met, but at least I am known as a good wife.

The Earth’s Proverbs

31:10 Who can provide for these consuming people? Who only value precious minerals, and not the earth they come from.

31:11 All I have in me they think is theirs, and they will take and take and take.

31:12 But I will provide what they need to live, I will take care of them as long as I can.

31:13 I grow the fibres that they spin into clothing.

31:14 I grow all kinds of food, in ecosystems and biomes.

31:15 Even while they sleep, I am growing their food and all my creatures have served their needs.

31:16 I am the field they believe they can own; they take credit for the bounty that I produce.

31:17 I have the power of a thousand storms, and the deepest ocean swells.

31:18 They think what I provide for them is to be bought and sold, but I provide for everyone, day and night.

31:19 I clothe them.

31:20 I provide more than enough to take care of everyone.

31:21 There is still life and bounty even when the harsh weather comes, I will not abandon them.

31:22 My mountaintops and canyons and oceans are more than just beautiful, they are life.

31:23 They believe the story of life is about them, they don’t even notice me, though I am always the land beneath their feet.

31:24 I am more than just commodities to be bought and sold.

31:25 I am resilient, and I will survive that calamity that is coming.

31:26 But they will only survive if they can learn to live in right relationship with me and my creatures.

31:27 I will keep providing what I can for all, my presence and care are constant.

31:28 Those who depend on me for life, extol my beauty, and they praise me saying:

31:29 “This land is ours, we can take and take and it will never run out.”

31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but the earth that gives life is to be praised.

31:31 Share what the earth provides with all, and live in right relationship.

 

Caitlin Reilley Beck is a fat, queer, genderqueer settler who lives on stolen Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh land, but is originally from Ottawa in Algonquin territory. Caitlin’s ancestors are from all over Europe, but include French Huguenots, Polish Jews and Irish Catholics. Caitlin is currently the Camp Director for Queerest and Dearest, an intergenerational camp for LGBTQIA2S+ Christian people and their families.

Wild Lectionary, a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.

 

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