“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” —1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV
“Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.” —1 Peter 3:3-4, AMP
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” —1 Peter 3:3-4, HCSB
I have gone over this passage again and again in my head, and I’ve looked out at the world, and I’ve found myself in the midst of a paradox of assault and protection: assault on tenderness and gentleness from the world and the way it works, and protection of those same things by the very power of the God who fights for me and wins my heart again, and again, and again. What comes out of this observation, is a question:
How, as a girl, gosh, as a woman, do I have a gentle and quiet spirit in a world that asks me, however indirectly or obviously, to instead be harsh and loud?
Marriages fall apart. Loved ones die horrible deaths, slow and painful. Children drive wayward paths and never come back. Women are called to be thin, slender, skeletal. They’re called to be sexual, promiscuous. Media demands compromise, but complete confidence. Society calls upon men and women to try and be each other and never having conditions or roles or rules or the like in their relationships. Women are pushed into the work place when they’d rather not. They’re asked to be go-getters and independent, cold, hard-hearted, sure of themselves. All without Christ in the dialogue.
Even at basketball practice, which officially started last Thursday, by the way, the temptation is for me to be tough, hard, mean, and confident in myself. But this is not the way Christ has called me to be…it’s not the kind of spirit He’s growing and developing in me. This is again an area of myself that is growing in different soil than the world, and I’m seeing how this is a “set apart sort of thing,” if you will, by looking at the godly women in my life. But I’m also seeing it come out in the church body. While the tendency is not always to be tough and independent, etc., it’s the opposite extreme; to be completely silent, without confidence, outside of peace and comfort and protection, and within plain passivity.
…the balance between these two seems to come back to what pretty much everything comes back to: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the stabilizer, the mediator of safety, the provider of the mind and heart of God within us, which is the Holy Spirit, the producer of gentleness and kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).
Now, the Holy Spirit is obviously different from the spirit that’s supposed to be gentle and quiet, the spirit that stands firm and at peace in the eye of the storm, the spirit that thrives under fire…but it’s the mind and heart of Christ that we are growing into as we walk with Him. You tend to become more and more like someone the more time you spend with them, and He’s already given us all we need to grow to be more like Him, to get used to this whole new identity He’s given us as His kids (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, 18, 4:7-10, 6:1-10, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
First, I want to know what God means by having Peter use words like “gentle” and “quiet.” Some translations use “meek” or “tender” in place of “gentle.” The word praÿs, which is the Greek word translated to “meek” and “gentle,” is defined as “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness.” And then hēsychios, the Greek word translated to “quiet,” is defined simply as, yep, “quiet, tranquil.”
So, Encarta World English Dictionary, my giant friend, what do you say about this?
gentle; adj: 1.) KIND; having a mild and kind nature or manner.
2.) MILD OR MODERATE; being moderate in force or degree so that the effects are not severe.
meek; adj: 1.) MILD; showing mildness or quietness of nature.
2.) COWED; showing submissiveness and lack of initiative or will.
quiet; adj: 1.) MAKING LITTLE NOISE; making little or noise.
2.) PEACEFUL; free from noise or commotion.
So, I know that our eyes tend to go right to the second definition of “meek,” which is brought out by statements like “women are supposed to be doormats” or “there we go; women are being told to sit down and shut up.” But I wanted to include it, to show that, in the context of the verse, which is wives representing Christ in the presence of their unbelieving husbands, that this being a demand for “lack of initiative or will” doesn’t make sense. And when applied to me as an unmarried woman, it still doesn’t make sense. Even if my will is removed from the situation of growing in a gentle and quiet spirit, which it’s most certainly not when compared to the rest of Scripture, God’s will still remains, and His initiatives are still at play. And there, if this is logical, which I believe it is, requires my response and cooperation, or my will.
So, wipe it out of your mind that being gentle and quiet in your spirit means that you’re weak-willed or without will, a doormat or just a stick in the mud.
As I’ve considered these verses, and the whole idea of Christ growing me in humble tenderness, a disposition in which a have A LOT of growing to do, I’m seeing more and more how important and valiant and powerful gentleness, tenderness is in this world. I realize that tenderness, and even vulnerability are a bit different than quietness and gentleness, but tenderness seems even more powerful and courageous here where we live. Tenderness implies outward action, and vulnerability requires trust. But trust in God and His protection, and action founded in that same trust.
I’ve taken to running before each basketball practice. My teammates think I’m kind of crazy, but that’s all right 🙂 Along with praying in preparation for the practice, for humility, for balance in my thinking and in my competitiveness, for my teammates and coaches, for focus on Christ, regardless of who’s watching, I’ve taken to running a couple miles, just listening to music that puts my head and my heart where Christ needs them to be. Call it preparing for battle. Call it clearing my head. Call it fun. Call it whatever. All I know is that the basketball court is one of the places I spend most of my time, and it’s also the place where I am most susceptible to misrepresenting Christ with a harsh and loud spirit as opposed to one that’s quiet and tender, both with internal attitude and outward action.
When I went home to the Sticks a couple weekends ago, I was in the middle of a tornado of brokenness, and a lot of people involved in or informed of said brokenness acted like the tornado was invisible, like there was no harm or danger; nothing was wrong. I knew they loved me, yes, but this shattered me, and yet the entire time, God fought for my tenderness and gentleness, despite the bitterness of the circumstances, what seemed to be the hopelessness of the situation. He valiantly reminded me of the hope to which I’ve been called, and my heart was guarded, fiercely protected.
There was a moment, while I was home, when God used Jacob to remind of that hope. I found myself out in my backyard, curled up in a blanket, gazing at the vastness of the Milky Way and letting Jacob leading me via phone through Cassiopeia, the dippers, and Pleiades. Remembering that even though, realistically speaking, there’s all of that universe out there and my life is actually pretty insignificant, like a vapor, God, the One who made all of it, seems to think I’m actually pretty important. Which, of course, doesn’t make any kind of sense in my human brain, but the stars woke me up, the creation doing what it was designed to do: point back to the Creator.
Along with Jacob, God has truly blessed me with Beth. She’d asked me one day, before heading home, how I was doing and what was going on in my life. I proceeded to kind of dump on her (it’s what we do 🙂 ) what was going on in my life, how I was feeling, where my head was, what I was seriously struggling with. Both Beth and Hannah are huge blessings to me, because they’re godly girls I can lean on, and whose leaning on me I welcome with gladness. Anyway, Beth, after we talked for a bit, directed me to Psalm 18, and I feel like I have it memorized now with how many times I’ve read it.
“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” (v. 16-18)
Now, granted, I don’t have people who hate me, at least I don’t think so, but I do have a strong enemy who is, was too mighty for me. I could not fight for myself, or my efforts would not be enough this time. God had to come down, as I see Him do for David in verses 7-12 in response to his call in verse 6, and battled for me as I leaned into Him and trusted that I was, am completely and entirely safe with Him.
Amazingly enough? One series of verses here in this Psalm read: “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” (v. 34-35)
Gentleness, tenderness, vulnerability, quietness of spirit founded and growing in Christ, is not a weakness, and it is not impossible. It is possible in every area of life. I have heard countless stories of godly women being gentle and quiet in their spirit in the face of death, in the presence of pain beyond anything I could possibly imagine, and wives here in the states who are powerful and confident, not because they’re harsh or loud, independent or in control of themselves, but because the tenderness and quietness of their spirits is founded in Christ and growing evermore, because they are the warrior princesses, the daughters of the Most High King. And it amazes me, the paradox of being a warrior and fighting with a Sword that heals people, battling with tenderness and love as weapons, and being protected by sacrifice, that of Christ, and vulnerability, that which we have before God, which will and does affect all other areas of our lives.
And so this is me, two story deadlines along with three or four chapters of reading to catch up on and two writing assignments due this week, a busy schedule, trouble back home, an enemy out to destroy me, godly warriors, both men and women rallied around me, all in the presence of a God who’s watching out for my tenderness and the gentleness and vulnerability of my heart, who pursues, fiercely protects, has rescued, redeemed, and fulfilled me, and who offers His strength to me, to fight alongside His other beloveds, like the warriors we are.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” —Psalm 18:1-3, ESV