Proverbs 31:10 asks who can find a virtuous woman, implying that such women are rather rare. Interestingly, both the Hebrew word chayil and the Latin word that Jerome used to translate it (fortis) convey the idea of strength and power. The adjective in the Septuagint (andreios) actually means masculine or even stubborn. The subsequent description offers a biblical celebration of a woman whose genuine strength of mind and will is clearly on display. King Lemuel’s mother apparently wanted him to find a woman with strong character, determination, and the ability to rise above circumstances and to achieve great deeds. These traits have often been thought of as masculine, but they are entirely compatible with a biblical understanding of femininity.
When, during the summer of 1978, I stepped onto the campus of Denver Baptist Theological Seminary, the first person I met was the registrar, Ann Miller. She took the trouble to show me the school and to introduce me to several professors. Her encouragement was definitely part of the reason that I went to Denver instead of to a more prestigious seminary.
Later, as a student and then a professor at Denver, I learned more about Ann. The first thing that I learned about her is that she was a highly competent administrator. While her official position was registrar, her managerial ability was the glue that held the institution together. Whenever I needed to solve an organizational problem, Ann was the person to talk to. If she didn’t know the answer, or if the matter fell outside of her purview, she could always help me find the right person with the right answer. If the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to believers, then one of hers was the gift of “governments” (1 Cor. 12:28).
That was not Ann’s only gift, however. A couple of months into my first semester, Mrs. Miller called me to her office. She had my transcripts in front of her. “I see that you didn’t do very well during your first couple of years in college,” she said. “Then your grades took off. What happened between your sophomore and junior years?” I explained that during my sophomore year, God had broken my heart and will, bringing me out of rebellion and into a willing recognition of Jesus Christ as my Lord. I can still remember how Ann’s eyes lit up. “I knew it!” she said. “I knew that God was doing something with you!” For a few moments we rejoiced together in the goodness of God. From that moment onwards, Ann became an unceasing source of encouragement.