One Sunday morning in May, several years ago, I sat in our church auditorium with my Bible open, my pen poised, ready to hear the second sermon my pastor was about to share in his “family life” series.
The week before, we’d heard about the responsibilities of the husband and father. This particular week, the focus would be on the wife and mother. I knew, though, there would be trouble when he announced the title of his sermon, “An Excellent Wife”—and instructed us to turn to Proverbs 31.
I don’t know how you feel about this Bible superwoman, known as the “Proverbs 31 Wife” we read about beginning in verse 10, but for me, I’d always had a love-hate relationship with her. OK, maybe just hate. Wait, hate’s not a nice thing to say. Strongly disliked. She didn’t encourage me in the way she helped her husband or children—just reminded me of all the ways I didn’t.
The countless sermons I’d heard about her from well-meaning pastors over the years (usually around Mother’s Day) didn’t motivate me to do better; they just reminded me of what I wasn’t doing well.
It was Pinterest-envy at its worst before there was ever Pinterest, and by the time my pastor got to his point that “an excellent wife is a tireless worker,” I’d shut my Bible.
Seriously. Who gets angry in church? Probably not the Proverbs 31. But I wasn’t the Proverbs 31 wife. I was tired. I didn’t feel excellent as a wife or a mom—and I wasn’t happy about the reminder that I wasn’t.
I went home that day and had a long talk with God. Why was I so angry? Was this holy indignation? Or conviction? Maybe I needed to do a little more soul-searching.
After taking time to pray about my attitude that morning, I decided, that for a week, I’d intentionally try to apply some of the principles we read about in that passage. I made a greater effort thinking about dinner and used the stove more than the microwave. I tried finding ways to speak with kindness to my husband, Cliff, and our son, Caleb—and not snap so fast when something didn’t go as planned. I prioritized my time to spend more of it with my family and made fewer excuses about being too busy with work.
By the end of that week, I realized things had gone really well. Maybe there was something to this rewarding your husband “with good, not evil” thing. As a competitive person, I decided to challenge myself to try living out the Proverbs 31 wife principles for the next year and write about it. How bad could it be?
Spoiler alert: Everything that could go wrong, did. But during that year, there was also a lot that went right, and those lessons have continued to shape my choices and actions as a wife and mom for the better. Maybe they will help you, too.
Live Out the Good, Not the Perfect
My worst critic during my year of trying to live out Proverbs 31 was … well, me. I didn’t just to put a nice meal on the table—I attempted gourmet. I didn’t want to find a couple of things I could learn to do well, I wanted to do it all well, and I wanted to perfect multi-tasking while I was at it.
But God taught me something important about perfection—He doesn’t want it.
He isn’t looking for it. He already has it in His Son. What He does want is our availability. When I made more time for my husband and my child, that wasn’t about a to-do list but was about actively looking for ways to show them love. God worked through those moments and turned that love into blessings for our family.
Live With Intention
If I learned anything about myself compared to the Proverbs 31 wife, it was that I wasn’t as intentional with my actions or my words as I thought I was. Part of this had to do with my view on activity. I thought the busier I was, the better wife and mom I must be, and I wanted to be a great wife and mom, so I needed to be really busy.
Being busy has nothing to do with being better. Often it does the opposite and can distract us from what we really need to be doing.
Stop asking, “What do I need to do today?” and start asking, “What does God want me to do today?” When you intentionally shift your perspective to His desires for you and your family over your own, you’ll find your priorities as a wife and a mom can change for the better. So can your fmaily.
Watch Over Your Family’s Thermostat Well
The old adage, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” is true, but the opposite is also true.
If you’re happy, your family will be happy. If you’re at peace, your family will be more at peace. When I finally accepted the idea that God has called me to this role as a wife and mom to help set the temperature in my household, I started seeing what an influence I am—the influence God calls me to be. God gives me ministry opportunities to carry out every day with Cliff and with Caleb.
For better or worse, I set the tone for my home, so it’s crucially important that I rely on God for strength and wisdom each day. That’s what the Proverbs 31 wife did, and that’s what I must do as well.
Being a great wife and mom today isn’t about how organized you can be or how many items you can check off each day on your seemingly never-ending list. It isn’t about keeping up with the other moms in your circle, and it’s not even about keeping up with the Proverbs 31 wife. It’s about following what God has called you to do—today, for your family, right now.
And when you can finally do that, you’re exactly the wife and mom He wants you to be.
Sara Horn is an award-winning writer and the founder of Wives of Faith, an organization that encourages spiritual growth among military wives. She and her Navy Reservist husband live with their son in southeast Louisiana. Learn more at sarahorn.com.