I've always had a big hang-up about the description/goal for the Godly woman of a "gentle and quiet spirit." When I first heard these words tossed around, I was a junior in high school and at about the furthest I've ever been from a gentle and quiet spirit. I remember the first person I thought of that depicted such qualities was Susan Wadley, my youth pastor's wife. At the time, she had long flowing blonde hair, piercing eyes, a soft-spoken voice and a humility that put most of us girls to shame. She sought after the presence of God, prayed with her husband (often caught in the act by nosey high schoolers) and was sweet to every one she met. Even several years later, my friend Laura described her as "not of this world" when we encountered the infamous Mrs. Wadley as we were each preparing for marriage.
Since then, Susan remains at the top of my list of gentle and quiet women, even though I did eventually come to find out that Susan is also a passionate woman, who works hard for the Kingdom and obviously has a lot of chutzpah for gathering her family and moving to South Africa to serve the oppressed in the heart of the AIDS pandemic.
Today, Chris' series on Ephesians continued with more of that ugly "s" word as he unpacked the roles and responsibilities of wives and husbands. What stuck me most was at the end of the message when Chris' wife Anne joined him at the podium to pray for the wives and marriages at King's Harbor. As she was praying, my mind started wandering on to the passage in I Peter 3:4 that Chris had read from moments before:
"but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
I realized today that this phrase was used in the context of marriage and Peter was actually exhorting wives to be gentle and quiet in the ways we relate to our husbands. Gentle and quiet looks different in each woman and is displayed differently through each unique marriage. God wants us to focus not on outward things that make us attractive and pleasing to our husbands, but on incorruptible and intangible traits that are formed in the depths of our souls and make us pleasing as the bride of Christ as well as our earthly husbands. Peter was describing the inner beauty of the Godly wife who submits ever so gently to the husband that loves her. True submission in a marriage is not an action without warrant. Rather, it is a re-action to love, protection and responsibility received from a husband who cares for her. A woman can be as expressive, bold and as intelligent as God created her to be. She can be celebrated and included for the unique ways that her Creator designed her to be. Her gentle and quiet spirit, is just that - the spirit - that is behind her words, her actions and her attitude. It is a spirit that rises from the pursuit of eternal things.
The way God designed marriage when looked at through the lens of Christ and the church makes the term "gentle and quiet spirit" much easier to get my mind around. The church is more effective when it is a gentle and quiet force in the community, helping her husband, the Savior of the world, carry out His leadership over the Kingdom.