I was enjoying a leisurely vacation with my family. Two days in, I’d made it a habit of rising early, working out, and then — one of my favorite things when I get the chance — enjoying coffee and Bible time by the ocean. It’s refreshing and serene. Settling.
But on the third morning, as I sat cozily in my spot, I opened my Bible to 1 Peter and was quickly unsettled. I had come to chapter three in my personal study, and read the following:
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 italicized words stopped me, and at first I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t we covered this ground many times before, my Lord and I?
I’m not naturally gentle and quiet. I know it. What comes natural to me is speaking my mind. Maybe that’s why I became a civil litigator. In the courtroom, I could wield opinions and arguments like a swordsman.
But I was born again and became a Christian during that time and learned that what was once a skill in the world might be a liability in marriage. If I wanted to glorify Christ, I needed to die to what came naturally and walk by the Spirit — and part of that walk entailed a gentle and quiet spirit.
So, early in my marriage, I made it a regular prayer. I asked God to cultivate in me a gentle and quiet spirit, especially in my home, with my husband.
And yet, twenty-two years into my marriage, in a cozy spot on the beach, the Spirit was convicting me in this very area.
The Inner Life
As I prayed to understand, the reason became clear. Like a highlight reel, I could see moments in just the past month that didn’t reflect “gentle” or “quiet.” Though, by God’s grace, I wasn’t as quick with my tongue, I had issues still . . . within.
I saw where I had been easily irritated and given to impatience. In those moments, I may not have said a word to my husband. But inside, I was grousing. There may have been an eye roll in the corner of my heart. And though my sighs may not have been audible, Jesus heard them loud and clear. And they weren’t pretty.
That’s the whole point of the passage, isn’t it? Christian wives are to adorn the person within. Above how we look, dress, or wear our hair, it’s the heart that matters. That’s what our focus should be. That’s what should shine as beautiful. A grousing, sighing, eye rolling heart is nowhere near beautiful. It is not the meek and tranquil quality that the Lord finds precious. At its core, in those moments, my heart did not reflect humility. And I was grieved.
I realized my larger issue was one of submission. I found this fact interesting, since I have taught on submission and have encouraged women in the beauty of submission, enlisting (among other passages) these verses in 1 Peter:
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. (1 Peter 3:1–2)
I love this passage. I love the peace and power in knowing that God can work in our husbands “without a word” from us wives. And yet, “without a word” is to be accompanied by chaste and respectful behavior. I am pretty sure that an exasperated eye roll, however hidden, is not envisioned.
Those moments usually involved the way something was being handled by my husband, and not necessarily a big something. But when the flesh wants its way, it wants its way. And though we may not actively rebel, the “I-know-better-but-I’ll-do-it-your-way” sigh is rebellion still. It lacks humility, and an acknowledgement that I often don’t know better. I cannot count the number of times I have thanked God in hindsight because we pursued the course my husband chose, over the one I favored.
Jesus desires submission from the heart, as unto him. As we submit, we are trusting him. We are saying — however things are being handled, however my husband is leading, whatever decisions he is making — “I trust you, Lord, to lead him and our family.” There is great beauty in aligning ourselves with our husbands through prayer, rather than staking out opposition, even if only internally.
But in those times we don’t get it right, the Lord is there to re-direct us.
God Gives Grace
In 22 years of marriage, there have been countless times I have not gotten it right. As believers, we are ever growing, ever being sanctified, and our flesh is in constant opposition to the Spirit. There will be moments when we react in ways that do not reflect a gentle and quiet spirit. And though we may wholeheartedly agree with God’s plan and purpose in submission, there will be moments when our words or attitudes do not line up with that belief. But thankfully, God gives grace.
He gently convicts, lovingly nudges, and graciously reminds when we have strayed from his will. He wants his best for us. He knows the blessing that comes with a gentle and quiet spirit, the inward grace that keeps our souls calm and undisturbed, no matter what is happening around us.
And when we look to him, he gives grace continually to beautifully adorn the hidden person of our hearts and to be precious in his sight.