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. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear
1 Peter 3: 3-6
When I converted to Christianity, I knew immediately that I would not be your typical Christian lady. I was outspoken and loud, I was liberal of politics and coarse of speech. I read the Bible avidly and despaired of ever being a “Proverbs 31 woman”. I hated the gender disparity rampant in the church, I lamented the loss of Mary the mother of Jesus as a touchstone. I once said to my husband: “if I have to hear another well meaning Christian man tell me I don’t really know what submit ACTUALLY means I will scream”. It was not pretty.
4 years later I am still fairly outspoken, I am still liberal of politics (slightly less left than when I was 19 but football fields more left than even the more liberal Christians I know), I drop f-bombs when my kids are out of earshot. I still read the Bible avidly, I still hate the gender disparity in church. I have taken it upon myself to talk to other Christian women what submission to Christ and to my husband means and tune out all those well meaning, but ultimately clueless (if only by dint of their gender!) men.
But I am different. The first time I read this passage from 1Peter I was actively sad. No one ever, in my entire life, would ever, NEVER describe me as a gentle and quiet spirit. Ever. Even when I wasn’t impassioned or enraged (which was not very often), even when I wasn’t anxious (which was almost NEVER), I buzzed, I hummed, I was incapable of being still and being quiet. I was incapable of being meek and mild. I longed to be like the pastors wives I knew, lovely gentle women, quiet and soft edged. Never blurting out things that struck them as funny or ridiculous, only speaking in low tones and soft voices.
Ok, I’ll cop to it, I was sad but I was proud of my fire. I was proud of my strength and my drive. Those women were doormats! I shouted to myself. I am an Amazon! I am woman hear me roar! I thought I had it all figured out and I thought I knew I would never be a real woman of the Good Book. But it was ok, because God made me strong!
Several months ago one of those amazing pastors wives shared a little bit about the word gentle and the Greek meaning behind Paul’s usage of it. And it changed my life. Literally
A good definition for gentleness in this context is strength under control.
A horse when it is wild, when it is strong and proud and fierce, is of no use to man. It dangerous and destructive. It lashes out, it is impulsive. When a horse is tamed it retains that speed and strength, the pride of being a creation of God, but it no longer destroys. It no longer lashes out. It’s strength and speed and ferocity are under control.
All of a sudden the gentle women I thought I was so different from? I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be like that. Smart and in control, strong and fierce for the Lord, but still capable of listening to others and learning.
Like I said, it was a life changer….but it went further.
I got home and the last line of the passage had been underlined in my Bible. I don’t remember doing it but there it was, blue ink ,strong and sure: “you are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear”.
The her being referred to here is Sarah, Abraham’s wife. She bore Abraham Isaac after years of barrenness, she had Isaac because of a promise from God. And I’ll lay it out for you, she was kind of a smart ass. In Genesis 18: 12 she literally laughs at God. She does it for an understandable reason, she and Abraham are long past childbearing years and yet He promises she will have a son, that she will be the mother of nations. I mean, in her defense, I’d snort too. When reading the account of Sarah and Hagar, I thought to myself: “Dang, this chick is fierce. She’s merciless!” I felt terrible for her because I identified with that anger, that feeling of being so frustrated. She shows herself to be a sinner, laughing at God, openly defying Him.
And then we see that God blesses her anyway. He has a plan for her and like all of His plans, they come to fruition, they all come together for good. Because Sarah has her son, and she brings him into the world with laughter, so overjoyed is she.
In Galatians, Paul describes Sarah as an allegory for Jerusalem. The free city, not enslaved, the children of promise, the children borne through laughter. She is fierce and hard but she is loved just as fiercely by God.
Fearless. Righteous. Gentle.
I have been meditating on these traits today. My prayer is that though I am a sinner, prideful and hard, I strive to be a daughter of Sarah. Because my reward is the fierce love of God. How marvelous.