Once in a while, I come to a passage or a verse in scripture that, frankly, I just don’t like.
The verses in 1 Peter chapter 3 are some of those very ones. “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves, instead, with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” The concept here is not that we should be plain, or not care AT ALL about our appearance. Rather, the idea is that we should not ONLY care about our appearance. That we should prioritize the beauty that comes from within. When my children were growing up, I always told them “It’s more important to be pretty on the inside than the outside”.
Ok, inner beauty over outer beauty. Check. Got it. That seems simple enough. But that’s not the part I struggle with. It’s the next part.
“…the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Boom. Drop the mic. That’s where I have to stop every time and say “Well, I guess I’ll never get that one right.” Gentle and quiet (especially quiet) is not me. It’s almost the exact opposite of me. I wonder if maybe I will never truly live up to what I think God expects of me.
Growing up, my report cards in school were fairly consistent, especially in elementary school. “Shelli is a good student, a pleasure to have in class, but she talks to much.” Ask my mom, this was on more than just a few report cards! One teacher explained to my mom at parent conferences, that she wanted to help me learn better in class. Since my constant talking was a problem and often a distraction, the teacher decided to move me away from my friends. She seated me with the boys in class, thinking that would quiet me down. Nope! I talked to them too. Then she had the bright idea that if I were seated right next to her desk, that I would certainly have to be quieter. That was also a no go. I just talked to HER! She eventually gave up and simply moved me back with my friends and shushed me more often. (In 5th grade I also got kicked out of choir at school for, you guessed it, too much talking, but that’s a story for another day…)
So, you can see why a passage of scripture that says I should be quiet, is a struggle for me. If you know me, you know that “quiet” is not in my DNA. No one I know would use that word in describing me! They will usually throw terms like “sassy” and “funny” out there. But never quiet. You can usually tell when I am in the room. I am not a wallflower, fading into the background. I often have something to say, and I will typically say it. So, when I thought that scripture was telling me to be quiet in volume, or with my words, I wrestled with that. The enemy was using my perception of what I THOUGHT the scripture was saying, against me. What I heard in my lack of knowledge about the truth scripture here was, “you need to change, you can’t be YOU anymore, God can’t use you the way you are…” and so on. I was uneasy.
I decided to do the only smart thing I could think of, to dig into the study notes in my bible as well as other sources and teachings on the subject. When it comes to scriptures that we do not understand, there are so many other study tools to help. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me that when I don’t understand, that He will direct me. Some passages simply require further study and resources.
What I found when I looked further, was a huge relief to my heart! I discovered that, in this passage, God is not asking me to just be a quiet person with my words. He isn’t telling me not to talk, or to talk less, or even to talk quieter. The phrase used here is a quiet SPIRIT.
The “quiet spirit” the apostle Peter is referring to here is actually about one being peaceful, or a peaceable person. It suggests a tranquil quality of life. The woman who is quiet in spirit does not spend her time “freaking out” about life! She understands and trusts that God is in control of all things. This is the kind of peace that we display on the outside, even when life is tumultuous all around us. It means that when situations in life happen to cause us stress, and concern, we intentionally recall God’s faithfulness in the past. Our spirit is quiet because we recognize that “God’s got this” essentially. This kind of spirit makes each of us a joy for others to be around. This quiet spirit draws others, with less peace in their own lives, toward us like a magnet. Therefore, giving us an opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus!
When our spirit is quiet, our life is able to declare loudly that we trust God. Peace is not the absence of struggle, rather it is absolute confidence in The One who brings an end to the struggle.
Imagine that you are walking out in nature, and you come upon a flowing stream. This peaceful stream invites and calls to you to come and sit on its shore and rest in the calmness of the sound of the water flowing gently by. While you are resting there, you can hear birds chirping, leaves rustling in the breeze, and the soft sound of the water pouring over the tops of the rocks in the stream. You can feel yourself being refreshed, like in Psalm 23. Your desire is to sit and rest here as long as possible!
Now imagine that you are out walking in nature, but you come upon the same stream in a place where the water is crashing loudly over the rocks. The force of the water is powerful and strong. You can see the white caps that seem to be declaring “danger” with their noise. You can’t hear the birds chirping or the leaves rustling. All you can hear is the tremendous sound of the water demanding your attention as it rushes powerfully downstream. This is not a place where you’ll want to sit and rest or take a break. It is a stressful scene.
In both scenarios, there is power being displayed within the water.
At the part of the stream where the water is furiously crashing and moving, there is great commotion on the surface. There is visible turmoil and sometimes deafening noise. All the fury of the water is seen and demands attention. You cannot rest here, and you are compelled to move away to a quieter place!
At the peaceful place in the stream, the surface of the water is calm, and seems to be barely moving. But underneath there is a great strength forcing the water downstream. You are able to relax peacefully here. You can enjoy the beauty of the softly flowing water, not fully realizing the strong current underneath the surface that keeps that water flowing. There is rest and peace here!
It is the same when the spirit of God is at work under the surface in me. His power in us is displayed on our surface, in what others see reflected in us. Am I “freaking out” on the outside, causing white caps in my own life? Or am I trusting Him and allowing Him to do His work underneath while displaying calm on the surface? God is not asking me to be quiet with my mouth, but to be quiet in my spirit.
There are plenty of times when God asks His people to speak up, to boldly proclaim His truth and to spread peace. I am best able to do this when I have a quiet (or strengthened) sprit within me. Having a gentle and quiet spirit comes when we, in faith, obey God’s word. That obedience builds trust, and trust promotes peace and faith. The lessons we learn through obedience to His word result in our becoming more like Christ. And after all, that is the goal, isn’t it? Becoming more like Jesus?
This quiet, or peaceful spirit, will give us the voice to speak. To declare the goodness of God. Having a gentle and “quiet” spirit will speak “louder” than any other rationale or “argument” that we could ever have for our faith!
There will be times when I do need to be quiet before Him. I may need to be quiet instead of offering my opinion in every conversation. I will always need the Holy Spirit to guide my words, and keep my mouth closed at times. But I do not ALWAYS need to be a quiet person, it’s okay to speak out and speak up. It’s okay to make a joyful noise! What a relief for my soul! I can now, in confidence, carry on being ME. I can be myself, and let God use me the way He made me. The change I need to make is within myself, and in my spirit. God can use my outgoing, “sassy”, slightly less than quiet personality.
Dear Lord, remind me of the water in the stream. Remind me that your spirit can continually move and work underneath, while there is a calm presence on the surface. Help me to trust you always and to display that trust through my quiet spirit in this life. Let my quiet spirit be of great value in Your sight.