There are some parts of Scripture that have made me cringe more than a child when chalk scrapes on a blackboard. They twist my stomach into knots and make me want to go read Romans 8 simply so I can feel better about this whole Word of God that confronts me so much. 1 Peter 3:3-4 has been one of those in the past.
Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
I don’t know if you’ve met me, but ‘gentle’ and ‘quiet’ aren’t the first words that come to mind when someone tries to describe me. Guilt and shame were associated with Peter’s exhortation for women to be gentle and quiet. Then, oh my. I actually read the text. Give me some grace with this, because the thoughts are still forming, but here’s what’s on my mind.
Peter talks about what’s inside the heart. There are other translations that use the word ‘inner life’ and that carries the same sort of vibe, and makes me think all the more than Peter’s agenda isn’t that women avoid rough actions or speaking too loudly. We’re not to be the ideal princess that the Queen in Brave is on about. Peter wouldn’t scold Merida for speaking up and shooting arrows and riding horses.
It’s about the heart. A gentle and quiet spirit. A spirit that is content with who God made her, a spirit that seeks God, a spirit that is still and knows that God is God even in the worst of moments. That, it seems to me, connects to his negative statement about beauty not being outward.
Today’s culture tells us to meet a certain standard of appearance. The right weight, straight hair, silky smooth legs, a smile that charms, no pimples or blemishes… The list goes on and on. Our hearts scamper towards that goal, and then shatter when we fall short. We look at ourselves in the mirror and find flaw after flaw. Yet, God doesn’t care about this. He doesn’t care about your skin imperfections. He wants our beauty to be inward more than outward.
He wants our hearts to seek Him, not worldly success. He wants our hearts to listen to his whisper, not try and shout loud enough to be heart over the mess of the world. And I think, perhaps, that there’s something to that. There’s something to letting go of the idea that the ideal woman must be a certain appearance… But this verse hasn’t made me feel rotten because my appearance isn’t good enough.
My heart sunk because I’m boisterous. My heart sunk because I’ve always loved to take on challenges. Gentle? Quiet? I’ll never be a “good” Christian woman. I’m doomed. But that was only ever an indication that my spirit wasn’t gentle or quiet. I was still seeking to outwardly appease the world. But it’s about the heart.
Christian women… You are loved the way you are. God made you, every intricacy of you, and he loves you. He has made your humour. He has made your voice. He has made your love of obstacle racing. He has made your passions. He has made you. Just the way you are. And you do not need to change this. You are not called to never speak and never do something that isn’t ‘gentle’. You are called to have an inner life that seeks after God, trusts God, and in that, you will find a gentle and quiet spirit… that isn’t concerned with outward appearance. Don’t seek the “Christian” ideal of meek and mild. Don’t seek the cultural idea of skinny and hot.
A gentle and quiet spirit is one that trusts God, knows God… And I don’t think I’m twisting the text to fit my desires here. But maybe sometime soon I’ll refine these thoughts so they make more sense. In the meantime, your input is appreciated.