Anyway, what I'm getting to is that there is a big lesson I have been learning over the past couple of years. It's the lesson of the gentle and quiet spirit. The passage from 1 Peter 3:3-4 has always been a difficult one for me to grasp.
Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair , and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God."
1. To deny who I am and force myself into the stereotypical woman I viewed as gentle and quiet...and be miserable along the way.
2. To just ignore that verse and continue on with my loud opinions and controversial statements.
But, a little over a year ago, I realized there is a third option. Awesome, right? It came after I read yet another book about what a woman of God should be like and I completely melted down and cried to Jonathan that if this is who I was supposed to be, I was going to fail miserably. Jonathan, in his amazing love and wisdom, hugged me and told me who he saw and wanted me to be. He also reminded me of who God calls me to be and who God says I am. As we talked about it and suddenly it hit me:
a gentle and quiet spirit is an internal state of being, not an external way of living life.And in a matter of seconds, a great peace and freedom washed over me. I learned that the pursuit of a gentle and quiet spirit doesn't mean that I have to sit in the back corner quietly only using a really soft voice when I talk, wearing loose flowy clothing and having really long hair, cooking dinner every night--over an open flame in the back yard, knitting and sewing in all my free time (hold on a second...), and having and homeschooling lots of kids. (Before anyone gets mad, I'm not against any of these things and I don't think any of them are wrong. In fact, they're totally awesome. They're just not all me. Well, they're not me today, at least.)
To me, a gentle and quiet spirit means FREEDOM. Freedom from having to be anyone other than who God says I am and freedom from having to justify or prove to others why what I do is okay.
This has come up a lot since motherhood. I've talked before about the pressures to conform to certain motherhood "standards". (And sometimes the Christian culture is the worst at putting those pressures on others!) I do conform to lots of those ideals, but I also don't follow all of them. Some people are supportive of the ways we do life differently and others aren't. That doesn't matter. The cool thing about living with a gentle and quiet spirit is that God tells me who I am and I don't need to make sure other people understand or agree with that. It's actually okay to disagree...and not even tell someone you disagree with them. And it's actually really fun to love and celebrate differences in lifestyles rather than be all grouchy about how people don't do everything like I do.
I can be free and content and comfortable and gulit-free if I am constantly bringing things to the Lord and my husband.
I realize this is an active pursuit, especially recently. There are a number of things that have come up in the past week or so that could cause me to become bitter towards a situation or other individuals. But, in pursuing a quiet and gentle spirit, I'm seeking to be free to love and let the offenses go, remembering that it is the Lord I answer to and not the opinions of others. And, if I do get offended about certain things, it probably means I'm insecure about things I shouldn't be insecure about anyway!
Now, I know this post can be construed as me deciding I can do whatever I want without wisdom and an I-hate-everyone-else mentality. But, don't take it that way. It comes out of trying to figure out how to deal with insecurity more than what's right and wrong.
So, to finish off this post, here is a diverse list of my (published) gentle and quiet spirit heroines and my favorite books by them:
Elisabeth Elliot- Let Me Be a Woman (and every other book she's written!)
Jan Meyers- The Allure of Hope (This book actually led to spend 1 1/2 years going by the name Eve)
Amy Carmichael- If
St. Therese of Lisieux- The Story of a Soul
Methchild of Magdeburg- Meditations
Sharon Hersh- Bravehearts
Hannah Hurnard- Hinds Feet in High Places
Eilzabeth Prentiss- Stepping Heavenward