8 We have a little sister,
And she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
In the day when she is spoken for?
9 If she is a wall,
We will build upon her
A battlement of silver;
And if she is a door,
We will enclose her
With boards of cedar.
These brothers have a clear sense of responsibility for their sister. They’re planning ahead for the day when she will be of marriageable age. They foresee two scenarios: She may be a wall, that is, she may have a closed, reserved, character, or she may be a door, having a more open, inviting nature. In both cases, they foresee the need to defend and protect her.
If she’s a wall, they want to build a battlement (a protective tower) of silver. Silver’s not a typical first choice for military architecture, but what they’re defending her from is being overlooked. So they beautify her, promote her, make her more attractive. They know all of her good qualities, and they want to make sure the rest of the world knows about them, too.
If she’s a door, they want to barricade her with planks of cedar. Cedar is a beautiful and valuable and fragrant wood, so they’re not uglifying her, but they are protecting her from unworthy suitors in a way that honors her.
For unmarried women, especially those who don’t have a protective family, there are practical ways the church can play the part of the brothers. Much of that role will fall to the elders, who can play the in loco parentis role in vetting suitors, but other folks can help, too. First, be discerning enough to know what kind of sister she is—a wall or a door. If she’s a wall, she could likely use some matchmaking help. Some folks from this congregation have been instrumental in making a few “love connections.” Keep up the good work! Most women in situations of protracted singleness are probably in this category. Be their fan club to cheer about them. Be their agent to promote them. If she’s a door, she might need a bit of caution about how some lunkheads are reading her outgoing personality, and the lunkheads might need to be told to back off.
A couple of cautions: 1) I don’t think either of these personality types is intended to fall under our criticism–there’s nothing wrong with being either a “wall” or a “door”–but they will need different kinds of protection. 2) There’s a fine line between being helpful and being a busybody, so proceed carefully, but don’t let the fear of getting it wrong keep you from acting at all. That would be burying your talent rather than investing it.
Other posts in this series (I’ll add links as I post them):
Part 6: He Sets the Lonely in Families