of Noble Character
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.
~ Prov 31:10-12
My son, who is ten, asked me the other day if, when he's older, I will explain to him how to get a girlfriend. I didn't laugh, as this is a serious matter. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked into his eyes. “I will help you, don't worry. But it's not going to be hard for you, trust me.”
I'm worried about the fact that it's going to be easy for him, actually. The problem is that we all have a tendency to fall into relationships, and if intimacy happens quickly, we can find ourselves emotionally entrenched in something that might not be good for us. Most of us have some degree of pain in our lives, and relationships can help mask that. It's not the right reason to be in a relationship, but it's often the very reason we are.
One of those people you date will turn out to be the person you marry. That's the thing I'm more interested in teaching my son. That it's in his interests not to find a girlfriend, but rather a girlfriend of noble character. That may actually mean it's harder for him than I previously indicated. And the same point applies to my daughters (who are closer to dating than he is, anyway). If you can be wise from the outset, it may pay dividends when you find yourself in a lifelong relationship with someone who builds you up and truly cares for you.
An article written last year reports that people with high education are less likely to have their marriages end in divorce. That's an interesting stat, but it's still no guarantee that your super-smart spouse won't leave you when things are tough. Even if they're a Christian. What you're looking for isn't education (though I'd consider that a plus) but character. You find that in others by having it yourself.
In Proverbs 31, there is an archetype which is spelled out -- a wife of noble character. Parts of it are amusing when read from a modern perspective, but the whole of it paints a vivid picture. It is a picture to aspire to, as a woman. And it is a picture to search for, as a man. It wouldn't take much creativity to flip this and figure out (using other parts of Proverbs) what a man of noble character would look like.
One of the chief characteristics of a woman of character is that she is not selfish. She is deeply interested in the well being of her husband. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of his life. That implies that her vows are solid, for better or for worse. It's what we need so desperately -- a marriage that sticks. We live in an individualistic, self-centered culture, and it's not hard to file divorce. If your spouse is looking out for their happiness above all else, and things are not going well between you (which can be the case, even for long stretches of time), they may not stay. Or maybe you're the one who's having second thoughts, and you want to be happy, and have come to believe that's not possible in your marriage. We've all been there at some point, with a vision of happiness that seems to allow for almost anything. We can even confuse that vision with what we believe God wants for us.
The problem is that you not only have to find a person of noble character, you have to be one too. The good news is that it's a lot easier to find a woman of noble character if you're a man of noble character. So this all starts with a commitment to invest in the lives of others. To develop habits of godliness, and consistency in all areas of your life. To be a person who can be counted on, someone who comes through for the people we care about.
So my priority in training my son is not for him to be charming, but to be steadfast. Not to be witty, but to love sacrificially. Not to be hip, but to be bold and confident, and stand up for what is right. To pursue holiness and follow Christ through all the years that lie ahead for him. I am training him by doing my best to model those things myself, so that he sees what being a man of character is all about. I want him to become a man of noble character. I want to be one also.
I am not entirely sure how many educated couples stay together for their entire lives, but I am sure how many people of noble character do. 100%.
Lord, bring us and our children guidance in our relationships, and develop in us Christlike character. Amen.
~ Michael Cranford has a heart for equipping others to follow Christ in today's world. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Irvine, a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California. Visit his website at OneSteadfast.com and follow him on Twitter at @OneSteadfast.