With the Wind7:30 AM
Spurred by repeated reference in another book, I picked up a torn copy of Gone with the Wind at our last library visit. Everyone knows Scarlett O'Hara - the feisty, the passionate, the hypocritical, the scandalous. She is, uncontested, one of the most colorful characters in American literature. Less known is Melanie Wilkes, her sister-in-law, gentle yet firm, loyal and enduring - to shorten the description, everything Scarlett O'Hara isn't, Melanie is. Mrs. Wilkes is the epitome of 1 Peter 3:4, of a lady, of a woman at home.
You can imagine my consternation, then, when I - stay-at-home daughter, Titus 2 trainee, me of all people - realized I wasn't like Melanie. I had more Scarlett O'Hara in me than Melanie Wilkes. I was faster, less content with staying at home, more a seeker of my own pleasure, the center of attention - or desirous of it, easily tired with good deeds and wrapped up in my own passions.
Of course, I'm like Scarlett in another way, in that hardly anybody would suspect my Scarlettishness. Since like repels like, you'll understand my disgust at both Scarlett and me, her reflection. That got me thinking back to an age-old question of mine: How on earth do I possess that meek and quiet spirit when my personality - not to mention my sinfulness - seems to seek the opposite?
I imagined a meek and quiet spirit to be the one who greeted her husband without a frown; who never lost a hint of her temper at her children; who spread her arms to grieving sisters; who soothed the worst flares of anger; who, in short, brought peace to the home. I know myself, however, to be more on the receiving side of a meek and quiet spirit, and not a possessor of it. There are these passions inside - good and bad - that bottled up make me bitter. There's this hesitation of confusion that snatches my hands back from doing good. I spurt up in anger and dissolve into tears faster than fire; and in my family I'm not well-known for my sweetness and gentleness. Indeed, I never seem to escape the frequent referrals back to my three-year-old tantrums.
Too, sinfulness aside, I'm not quiet. I like to talk; I like words and feelings and analyzing them both. I love to laugh and grin and make others do the same. People stare at me incredulously and say I'm funny in a sort of shocked way. I love tickling my baby brother to shrieks and don't mind romping around until someone shouts for quiet.
Thus it always confounded me how to match my personality with the desire of God for women to be gentle and quiet. Then I wondered, "What does it truly mean to be quiet? Gentle? What is that imperishable quality that God deems 'very precious'? And can a young woman who loves words and laughter truly possess that beauty?"
For the entire verse is beautiful: "[L]et 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 can't help but catch my breath at that. I am filled with wonder at the spirit of gentleness and quietness, very precious to God, indwelling little old me. Making me beautiful. Imperishably so.
And as I dug deeper, the wonder grew.
Beauty Has Its Price
If the depth of this verse isn't sinking in, consider the origin words tucked into this verse. Imperishable means in Greek just what it means in English - imperishable - immortal - undecaying. When possessed, this inner spirit will not fade. The NIV translates it unfading beauty. I'm a girl. I love that.
Very precious turned out to be different than I expected. I thought it meant precious as applied to a ten-month-old - "Oh, how precious!" or "Aren't you precious!" - a sort of quietly delighted feeling inspired in the beholder. In reality, the root word is polutelés, and it means "very costly." This is something of priceless, immense worth in the eyes of God - the gentleness, the quietness of a woman's spirit. A variation of the word is used to describe Mary's gift in the alabaster jar that she poured over her Savior's head. In an indirect way, the costliness of a woman's gentle and quiet spirit is comparable to the costly sacrifice Mary made for her Lord. In the same way, when broken and poured out to the Lord, a woman's gentle spirit is one of the most precious gifts to her Savior.
I want to be that spirit called "very precious" in God's sight, to possess unfading beauty of the inner person. Yet all things considered, what does it mean to have "a gentle and quiet spirit"?
Of Masters and Meekness
The word translated gentle (or meek) comes from the Greek praus. It means mild and by implication, humble and meek. And it takes on a deeper meaning when we realize this word is applied to our Savior, Jesus Christ - the man of authority Himself. Consider:
"Take my yoke upon you," He said in Matthew 11:29, "and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart."
And again, in 21:5: "Tell the daughter of Zion, behold, your King comes to you, humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Two things we must realize. Firstly, the call to gentleness and humility never means subservient or inferior. How else could King be in the same sentence as humble and the King of kings willingly describe Himself as gentle? We are dealing with the inner spirit, that, while perhaps lauded across the known world as this King was, nevertheless possesses a gentle meekness that puts herself apart from her center of attention. She seeks to put others - namely, Christ Jesus - at the center of her world. Secondly, we, as women looking for this inner spirit, are not looking for something relegated to the fundamental female fanatics of conservative Christianity. We see from that first verse that learning to conform to Christ involves humbleness of spirit. Christ Himself was humble. We should seek no worse. In this search for a gentle spirit, we are primarily seeking Christ Himself.
Peace Like a River
Quiet is translated from a derivative of hésuchios, which Strong's Concordance describes as "properly, keeping one's seat ... i.e. (by implication) still (undisturbed, undisturbing) - peaceable, quiet."
That's packed. The implication is "Be still. Don't disturb. Don't be disturbed." This is a peace found in the depths of Christ Jesus. It does not mean, as I had feared, "shut up and stay put." It is not an adult version of "children should be seen and not heard." Women should talk (and laugh too, I hope), but their talk should stem from inward peace and humility - as Christ's was.
What strikes me is the undisturbed, undisturbing part. I am often disturbed. I feel insult sharply, because I do not already possess that humility that cannot feel personal insult and seeks God's glory, not its own. I am often pushed to my temper's limits and shoved into the defensive. On top of that, I am often disturbing, too. I like pushing people to their limits if it elevates my pride. I like a good argument. I love being right. And I know just the right tactics to make others feel uncomfortable and defensive without causing an outright brawl.
This is exactly the opposite of a quiet spirit - a spirit satisfied with being Christ's and radiating peace. I don't mean a passionless spirit. I don't mean a dull one. I mean one that is slow to anger, slow to speak. One that is quiet in the sense that it is tranquil and seeks tranquillity. One like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus, and not like Martha, whose soul sloshed over frazzled and bitter even while she attempted service.
A heart surrendered to Christ Jesus.
Check that heart. Is it gone with the wind at every trial, every insult? Or is still - meek - firm in the fact that it is very precious in the sight of God? "Learn from Me," Christ has said, "and you will find rest for your souls."