“Oh, but I’m not like other girls.” “Girls are too emotional.” “Guy friendships are so much easier to maintain.”
I cannot count how many times I have heard these words and I am guilty of speaking them far too often. And every time I hear them it’s another stab into the soul of the woman God created. We are “too much” of this and we are “not enough” of that. I have spent too much of my life trying to distance myself from who I am–who I was created to be, because I had a warped image of what it means to be a woman.
I had two pictures in my head of women:
I had the image of the “mean girl”–and I had seen my share of them. The girls who talked about me behind my back and the ones who made me feel insecure. The ‘mean girl’ was always trying to be on top and would put others down in the process.
Then I had the image of the demure woman–living with an unending list of how to dress, how to act like a lady, what not to say, what not to wear. She wasn’t supposed to speak her mind or dress in a way that called attention to herself. There was always something she was doing wrong–and even more often, something someone else around her was doing wrong.
I decided I didn’t want to be either of these, but I didn’t have a picture of what I should be. So I just tried to shun both, and in the process, was more confused than before. I tried to dress pretty, but not immodestly. I tried to hide a lot of things I liked or play down certain qualities, so I could create the image I wanted. And I could still totally hang out with the guys, because I wasn’t emotional and ‘girly’ like those ‘other girls’… what a mess.
When I went to the Bible, I only got more confused:
“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” -1 Peter 3:4
If you’re anything like me, the verse above doesn’t sound very appealing–in fact, it can sound downright offensive. It brings up that image of the demure woman.
And what if I don’t want to be gentle and quiet? What if I want to debate ideas about life, theology and politics as much as the guy sitting next to me? Sports and skydiving don’t sound very gentle. Investigating hard-hitting journalistic stories doesn’t feel very quiet …and by this point, I’m not really buying this verse.
But then I think of the women I’ve seen in the Bible.
I think of the beauty and bravery of Esther.
… the persistence and courage of Ruth
… the bold lies told by Rahab to defend the Israeli spies.
The image of the woman I see here is beautiful and strong–worthy of emulating. I had gotten something wrong.
A “gentle and quiet spirit” doesn’t mean a gentle and quiet person–a woman who stays unseen and only speaks when spoken to. Gentle and quiet are used to describe our spirit, our inner being–our identity.
A gentle and quiet spirit is one that has found her identity in something strong, something immovable. She is gentle because she is still. She is rooted. She is quiet because she knows her own identity. She doesn’t have to scream it for others to hear. She doesn’t have to argue with the people who misunderstand her. She is content knowing who she is.
A woman who cuts down other women to find her identity has a spirit is in turmoil, always struggling to stay on top.
At the same time, the woman who feels insecure isn’t any better. I know this, because I’ve been this girl and this woman too many times, “scorned” by those around me. It’s easy to feel morally superior as the underdog. But this woman is the same as the others. She is angry and insecure, because her soul is in turmoil–searching for affirmation. Love me. Acknowledge me. Then, and only then, will I be content with who I am.
And the woman who has a list of do’s and don’ts to follow? Her soul doesn’t feel very gentle. It feels pressed down on by the weight of morality–the weight of being the woman she “should be.” And in turn, she can feel bitter towards those around her. “I can’t believe she’s wearing that.” “I can’t believe she did that.” “I would never…”
At one point or another, I have been all of these women. And I can say first hand that it is tiring. I spend my days feeling exhausted; my soul never at rest. It is constantly striving–to be noticed, to be loved, to be important.
Having a gentle and quiet spirit isn’t easy in a world that demands so much. It feels almost unfair to pile on another expectation for women. But, this isn’t an obligation; it’s a call to surrender. Come to him all you who are weary and HE will give you rest. The thoughts and pressures that wage war on your soul–He battles those for you. He give you an identity; a purpose.
A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit has an identity that is rooted in something that will last. She knows she is fearfully and wonderfully made. She doesn’t have a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
She can chase her goals and her dreams without fear, knowing that He put those unique desires in her heart and He is the one who gives her to power to achieve them. She can speak up because her soul is not burdened by the fear of others looking down on her. Her words are flavored with the kindness of the One who has been kind to her. She can love others fearlessly, expecting nothing in return, because she knows she is already perfectly loved.
She can rest in who she is.
On the inside, her spirit is gentle and quiet.
On the outside, she looks different every time–an irreplaceable individual, loved by the One who created her, with her own passions, skills, dreams, and desires.
She can rest easy, because she is already loved.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
– Proverbs 31:25