Monday, June 02, 2008

Healing My Inferiority Complex

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.”


ester said...

I'm glad that you found peace with your interpretation of that verse. I have to add, though, that Sarah is hardly a meek little lady. She is the one to suggest that Abraham sleep with her maid, Hagar. Then, later, she tells Abraham to throw out Hagar & her son Ishmael. When Abraham asks God for a second opinion, God says, "Listen to your wife." (Or, if you want the fancy English translation I just found online, "in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice.")

TLC said...

I know, right? That's what's so awesome!! You nailed it -- she wasn't a meek one. She was outspoken and often wise, I love it when the whole picture becomes clear!

Christine said...

I love all this discussion, TLC. When I think of the great women of the Bible, they are fierce, strong women who were confident in who God had called them to be...just like you. The poem is beautiful. It's helpful for married ladies too :)

Anonymous said...

I am glad you have found healing in your opinion of yourself. From what I see you are truly beautiful on the outside. What I hear from Dovie and Basim you are even more beautiful on the inside. Rest in God and He will give you a sweet assurance of your worth.
Loved the post and the poem.
Moms Keprta (Dovie's mom)

Kristin Zuvich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

TLC, I'm loving this blog- and all your other recent ones. It truly blesses me to think, "I have a friend who understands and writes about the things I feel". So thanks. :)

Sarah McGalliard said...

You hit home with me here, Song of Solomon 8:4 was a verse I dedicated to memory early in my teenage years. I was tired of meaningless relationships with men who were not my future husband.

I think you did a beautiful job summing up exactly what these verses were written to be!

Brandi said...

i love this poem. one of my favorite things about Christ is how he's a pursuer. mmmmm.

Brantley said...

No way! A quiet spirit is very different then a quiet mouth. A gentle and quiet spirit creates peace and brings joy to those around her. She is the example of a Godly woman and the younger woman should look to her as they strive for womanhood. How she does that may be by a shy smile or a loud joke but the effect is the same. The opposite is also true. Some ladies I know, both shy and outspoken, will stir up trouble or start conflicts to manipulate those around them. I'm sure you could finish the saying "If momma ain't happy..." They had a similar saying in the bible. If momma ain't happy, go back to the corner of your roof.

I think the main idea here is humility and submission to God. That's something both men and women should strive for.