When I was 18 my mentor told me to choose a verse that could serve as a "code" for my personal life and my future marriage, something to aspire to and challenge me. This is what I chose:
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, 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. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
The more I read it, the more it made me feel inferior, unfeminine, unlovely. I am fine with inner beauty--although my shoe collection testifies otherwise--and I'm totally down with submission to a godly man who empowers me to follow. But here's the rub: Maybe on my good days I could be considered "gentle," but it would never be one of the top 5 adjectives used to describe me. And I am not "quiet."
Peter was practically rebuking me, it seemed. How could I ever be these things, these "beautiful" things, when they seemed to contrast so strongly with my natural temperament and even my spiritual gifts? I prayed about it, talked to people about it, tried to forget about it.
Then one day, I was talking to another friend who has a similar temperament. She mentioned this verse to me and how she hated it because of those same reasons. And in that moment, God showed me something that I'd never realized before. When I measured it against scripture, it made sense. God totally transformed that verse into one of possibility and hope... here's how it breaks down for me now:
Peter refers to it as "the inner self" and speaks of the "quiet spirit" -- that doesn't mean women need to be silent and demure. It doesn't mean we are to be devoid of opinion or insight or wisdom. What it means is that our spirits should be at rest with God, that we should trust Him and fear Him alone. Maybe we are vocal, maybe we are shy -- but if our hearts trust in the goodness of God, there is a peaceful essence that doesn't lend itself to striving and clawing and grasping. When our spirit is quieted, it lends itself to patience and grace and joy.
The great thing about this verse is the freedom it promotes. True freedom come when we focus our eyes on the Lord, trust in Him, wait for Him. It comes when I surrender the desire to act on my own behalf and instead choose to trust in Him. Most of that striving is done in fear anyway, right? But if we don't give way to fear, we become more like Sarah, more beautiful, more gentle and quiet in our spirit, even if not in our temperaments. Beautiful!!
And for those of you who are single women, here's a little something I wrote for you/me on the topic of keeping a quiet heart while waiting.
Put Away Your Flashlight (Song of Solomon 8:4)
Put away your flashlight –
The one you shine into love’s closed eyes
Hoping for a flinch, ever-so-slight
Grasping at the hope of a pending dawn
No more shaking love, my dear,
Begging it to wake
Your heart will faint from exhaustion,
And regret will steal your morning
Press your face against the pillow now
And wrap yourself in sheets of truth:
“There is no ‘meantime’ when you
Rest deep in the arms of your Pursuer.”