Well, in the flow of our conversation one day, my friend mentioned how she used to feel uncomfortable with the verse about women adorning themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit. I don't remember where our conversation went from there, but her comment got me thinking.
It's interesting what that verse doesn't say. It doesn't say we should have a gentle and quiet demeanor. It says nothing about a gentle voice, or a quiet laugh. In fact, nothing is said about our appearance, tastes or personality at all! The whole verse focuses on our heart and spirit. This is what it says:
Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. - 1 Peter 3:3-4
The things that are described as precious to God have nothing to do with our outside. They are hidden in the inner person of our hearts. Perhaps our minds can quickly focus on external things with this verse because of the word gentle. We know what it means to have a gentle voice or a gentle touch. But what in the world does it mean to have a gentle spirit?
When I did a word study on "gentle", I wasn't expecting to get hit on the head by a two by four. But that's about what I felt like. Praus - the Greek word translated as gentle or meek - is an inwrought grace of the soul; the attitude of spirit in which we accept God's dealings with us as good, and do not dispute or resist. A gentle spirit doesn't resist when God allows disappointment or says no to our desires. It still says "Lord, you are good" in the face of trial and pain. A gentle spirit doesn't dispute with God when He asks for surrender in an area which will require more death-to-self than we wanted to experience.
Ouch. I had thought this was going to be easy.
I looked it up, and that same concept is there in the English word as well. Gentle (definition #5) means easy to be handled, tame, docile. I can have a well modulated voice, a soft touch, and be as demure and ladylike as can be, and still be nowhere near having that gentle spirit. Scripture gets right down to the attitude and reactions of my heart towards God in what He does and allows.
It's no mistake that while God was dealing with me on my personal application of this verse, He brought to mind Jesus' words in Matthew 11:29:
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
There it is again, that accepting gentleness. Not only is it a precious adornment in God's sight, it is the only way in which we will find inner rest. It's true, I am never at rest when I am resisting and disputing with God. But when I have surrendered, accepted and acknowledged Him as good, my soul finds rest even in the most tempestuous circumstances.
I don't have a gentle spirit yet, not all the time. I can only say "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner" and pray that God will work in me "to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:13).
But for those of you who feel more like sunflowers and zinnias than shrinking violets, go ahead and take root, bloom brightly and make yourselves at home in the garden of godly femininity. Whether you're a bird-of-paradise or a lily-of-the-valley doesn't matter. A gentle spirit is found in the attitude of the heart.