I was a young teenager the first time I heard the passage read at a wedding rehearsal dinner.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 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.”
1 Peter 3:3-4
“You are that woman,” the speaker told the bride
And it wasn’t hard to tell she was right. I remember thinking, even the way she sat in her chair, the way she lifted her glass to her mouth, the way she turned to her soon-to-be husband and brushed her lips against his face. Everything about this woman was gentle and quiet.Those images have stayed in my consciousness since then, and they’ve collected a thousand others to go with them.
And as they’ve gathered, they’ve collaborated, even ganged up on me at moments, trying to convince me that I was somehow not a good “Christian Woman,” or that God loved me less because I wasn’t particularly gentle or quiet. I would watch other women from a distance, the way they barely made a noise as they walked, the way they so carefully linked words together as they spoke so everyone around them felt cherished and honored, they way they were kind even when someone offended them.
And I would feel this deep insecurity rise up
—this horrible growing anger at a God who wanted me to be gentle and quiet, but had made me fast, loud, passionate, a little rough around the edges at times.
I let this anger drive me away from God for a long time, telling myself that either he didn’t exist, or I didn’t want anything to do with him if He was the kind of God who played tricks on his victims, Lording his power over us until we drowned in our own powerlessness and guilt. But even in my distance from God I wanted what Peter was talking about in that passage. I hated myself for wanting it, but I wanted it.
Why am I not gentle?
Why am I not quiet?
Why am I so unkind?
Then there was a period of time where I resolved to come become that woman.
I had come back into relationship with God only a short time earlier, and part of that, I decided, meant being the “woman” He wanted me to be. With his strength, I could do it. I was convinced. So I gave it my best shot, tried to quiet my rambunctious spirit, or slow the speed of my ideas.
I tried to silence my opinions before they came out in the wrong way.
But it didn’t work. Instead, I disappeared into my efforts, letting insecurity take me by the throat and steal my voice. I was gentle and quiet on the outside, but on the inside I was full of fire and noise and pent up anger about my situation. If God loved me, why didn’t he want me to be myself? And if there was a way to become more gentle and quiet, why was he hiding it from me?
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, I got married.
There are so many wonderful things about marriage, it’s difficult to add them up. I could make a list, but that list would be inadequate. It would just be words, and words would fall so short of the beautiful struggle I enjoy with my husband.
But if marriage doesn’t wake up your insecurity, make it scream at you in protest, I imagine nothing will.
I wish I could say that marriage showed me that being gentle and quiet didn’t matter, and that my husband loves me “just the way I am.” But if I said that, I would be lying. In fact, my husband is like a mirror to my dysfunction. I can’t ignore my harshness in marriage, the way I could when I was single, because he shows it to me.
Not with his words, but with the way his face looks when I am harsh with him.
I am loud (literally) when I wake up early in the morning. I make coffee loudly. I close doors loudly. All while he is trying to sleep in. It’s hard to ignore the truth about yourself when you live with another person.
In marriage I’ve tried all of my old strategies to escape the shame of my shortcomings — hiding from God, first, and then coming home, trying to pretend I’m exactly like him. I’ve felt angry for expectations like gentle and quiet, ones that feel impossible to meet, and I’ve also felt desperate, for Him to help me be a woman who reflects the very nature of Him.
I’ve given up. Again and again and again.
It is there, in those moments when I give up, that God whispers to me the one thing that quiets my shame. You are not an accident, daughter. You are a purposeful and beautiful reflection of My personality and light. And it is there, in the fullness of His love, the pressure is off. I realize I am more gentle and quiet today than I have ever been, and that He is teaching me what it means to be kind, not as much with His words as with his extravagant provision and love.
He’s not mad at me, even when I fail to be gentle and quiet, but he is flushing out the grit and grime over time, humbling me as I do life with Him.
And for now, that’s enough.
Question: Are you a gentle and quiet woman? Do you know someone who is? To reply, click HERE.