I read a lot. Fiction. Nonfiction. Magazines. Newspapers. Blogs. Wikipedia articles (favorite pastime when I'm bored at work...). And of course, The Bible. So, usually I think about something I've read for a little bit, but before long I've read something else that works its way into the forefront of my mind. I say that so you'll understand how weird this next bit is. I read a piece of scripture more than a month ago, and its been rolling around in my brain on a daily basis since then. I don't mean to say that I normally read scripture and then forget it. But I also don't usually find that a specific phrase attaches itself to my brain quite as strongly as this one did. To be honest, I was almost... well... bothered by this scripture. Ok, so now I bet you're wondering what this scripture said that had me so... confused, annoyed, whatever I was. I still don't exactly know what to say about it. Here it is...
1 Peter 3:3-4 (New International Version)
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
The part that kept creeping back into my head was the phrase "gentle and quiet spirit." Why you ask?
Anyone who has spent more than about 2 minutes in the same room as me will tell you that I am not shy. I am outspoken. I am opinionated. I am loud. I have a BIG personality. I am the EXACT opposite of a wallflower. So when I read that God values GENTLE and QUIET I thought 'well geez, I'm screwed.' I want to be beautiful... ESPECIALLY in God's eyes, but I don't know about gentle and quite. In my head that's like saying God values women with brown eyes... well mine are blue... so what exactly am I supposed to do about this?
To be honest, 'gentle and quiet' sounded to me like the recipe for BORING. In order for me to be a good Christian woman I have to be meek, easy to dominate, and not talk too much? I think that the way I initially read these verses is the way LOTS of people interpret them. Actually, to be totally honest, I've met Christian women like that. And I don't want to be one. On the other hand I've known women who were outgoing and were made to feel less feminine or worse less holy because they had a strong personality. I suppose some people see such women as a threat to Christian tradition or male leadership.
Well, after thinking about all this for about a week I decided to do a little research and see what some other people had to say about interpreting these words. I just didn't believe that I needed to change my personality in order to be a Godly woman. After reading what some really credible Christian women had to say about this passage I started to feel a lot better.
First off, the passage says gentle and quiet SPIRIT not PERSONALITY. Look up the definitions... not the same thing at all. Your spirit is the thing underneath that drives your personality, but its not the same thing. This information was INSTANT relief to me. Meaning I can be strong, loud, passionate, opinionated and have a gentle quiet spirit underneath. Well, that revelation led me to my next question. What does an outgoing woman with a gentle quiet spirit look like in comparison to an outgoing woman without a gentle quiet spirit? So, more googling, reading, praying etc led me to the following conclusions... (understand of course that all of this isn't directly out of my head... I read some quite intelligent women's thoughts on this subject... but I don't think they'd mind my sharing.)
1. An outgoing woman with a gentle and quite spirit is confident, but not forceful while a woman without such a spirit will push, force, or manipulate until she gets her way. (A manipulative woman... SHOCK, right?!)
2. A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit can lead without controlling, while a woman without such a spirit seeks to have all the power. (How many women are self-described as type A?!)
3. A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is driven by her desire to serve (Christ and other people) but not by not her fear of failing, while a woman without such a spirit is scared of what will happen if she slows down.
4. A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is outspoken when the situation calls for it, but speaks with the grace and humility of Christ, while a woman without such a spirit MUST be heard no matter the repercussion.
5. A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is quick to listen and slow to speak (and THINKS before she does speak in order to communicate truth effectively), while a woman without such a spirit is pushy, harsh or overbearing.
As I read at some point in my 'investigation' the bulk of this situation comes down to having a spirit working out of peace or out of fear. We're driven by one or the other, and its all our choice as to which one it is. I've been in both situations in my adult life, and I can say that the peace is a FAR better choice. I have found that its an active day to day choice to live out of peace and to develop a gentle quiet spirit. As Pastor Steven noted in the last sermon series at Elevation, 'when we give God the highest glory, he gives us his deepest peace.' And when I'm at peace I'm able to have that gentle and quiet spirit that God finds so beautiful. It amazed me how God just fit all these little pieces together to make one big message for me.
So, if you're loud and outgoing like me, then keep it up. Just do it as a way to glorify God, not to get attention. As I mentioned in a blog a few weeks back, the thing that makes you unique is the thing that makes you powerful (Thanks to Pastor Steven for that clever turn of phrase.) A gentle and quiet spirit doesn't equal a boring personality. Its just an anchor that ties your God given personality to Christ and makes you even more unique, so embrace it. Thats what I'm working on. =)