The summer issue of Mutuality is out the door! This issue’s “join the conversation” article focuses on gender stereotypes in marriage, cast in the light of Proverbs 31. Daniel Fan talks about his experience as a man who has lately found his own story strikingly similar to the Proverbs 31 woman.
By Daniel Fan
Maybe the biblical character you best connect with is Daniel in the lion’s den, or Mary when the stone was rolled away. Sometimes we connect with the well-known figures we would have chosen for ourselves. But sometimes Creator appoints us to walk in the company of stranger biblical fellows—companions we would not have chosen, but who enrich our lives even so.
This is the story of how I found myself walking the path of the Proverbs 31 woman, identifying with her story, and becoming what I call a “Proverbs 31 man.”
My tale doesn’t begin in a happy place. In 2008, the wheels came off the American economy. All my aspirations (along with my employment) skidded to a halt, while what remained of the economy tumbled on without me. It was a very humbling place.
Her husband is respected at the city gate.
I found no quick deliverance through professional leads, but Creator kept faith with me, if not my dreams. Just as the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband gained respect at the city gate, so my wife has become a respected community leader. She has received consistent promotions in her workplace at a local municipality, ensuring our financial stability.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
With my wife at work all day, I necessarily took on more domestic duties, some of which I excelled at, and some of which required…discipline. While folding fitted sheets still escapes me, I have developed my natural gifts for improvisational cooking and for replicating dishes I’ve tasted, but don’t have recipes for. My current repertoire includes French, Italian, Chinese, Filipino, classic American, and fusion dishes. Using the ancient Chinese secret of pressure cooking, I can whip out a decent beef bourguignon in about an hour and a half. During parties, I often find myself in the kitchen surrounded by women, but interestingly enough, no one has ever questioned my masculinity after sampling my food. Cooking is not only for women: life’s too short to eat bad food, and only children cannot feed themselves.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
Many husbands dread the question “Does this dress make me look fat?” I don’t. My wife loves me. You can tell, because I can say to her “I’d suggest the other dress with the more flattering ruching at the waist.” My wife values my input on everything from dresses to professional suits to casual wedges. Even her friends have commented on my choices for her.
She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family…. She sees that her trading is profitable.
In a strange twist of fate, I’ve had to turn what had been a hobby into an entrepreneurial exercise. I specialize in a specific line of sporting goods and accessories. My experience in this field allows me to quickly evaluate the origin, manufacturer, and condition of equipment, as well as estimate repair costs and market value of products. And because many of my sales contacts are on the East Coast and I live on the West Coast, it’s often an early-to-rise work schedule.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
I have a calling to see the church do justice for women, minorities, and indigenous peoples. More than cooking, more than sales pitches, more than anything else, this is what Creator has tasked me to do. The twin skills of evaluation and articulation—knowing if the price tag matches the value and explaining that a certain piece doesn’t fit within a consistent mission—apply to the pursuit of justice. When the American church talks about justice for Africa, but ignores injustice on its own streets, that is more than a clash of colors. When the church markets a program of equality for all men, but forgets women, it is not offering a square deal. In the face of injustice, Creator commissions us not to break hearts, but to break silence. You might be surprised by what doors you can open with a well-placed letter or simply by appealing to the right person (and never quitting until you reach that person).
There are some parts of Proverbs 31 that I can’t claim yet. I’ll admit that my sewing skills are limited to reattaching a button. And I don’t have kids or servants to provide for (though I do sometimes get up at zero-dark-thirty to feed the cat). But that’s okay, because Proverbs 31 isn’t meant to be read as a checklist. It is a compilation of individual virtues, each of which is worthy of celebration. We would do well to embody any one of them, regardless of our gender.
It was not by choice, but by calling, that I found myself a Proverbs 31 man. And perhaps, if you look carefully, you will find yourself one as well.
How have you found yourself crossing traditional gender boundaries, whether out of desire or out of necessity? How have people responded? And how has this affected your understanding of God, yourself, or gender? Do you identify with any biblical characters not of your own gender, or figures who acted outside the prescribed behavior for their gender? What biblical women or men have inspired you to step across traditional gender boundaries in your society?
Author Bio: Daniel Fan is a writer and justice activist focused on gender equality, racial justice, and indigenous issues. He is an active member of Evangelicals 4 Justice. His writings include an award-winning screenplay entitled “Olohana” about the formation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Daniel blogs, cooks, looks after the house, and pretty much tries to be a good Proverbs 31 guy. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Emily Rice, and their cat.