Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ february 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com
Have I mentioned that I am Irish and Italian?
I don’t say this to encourage stereotyping, but it is a long-running joke with those close to me that is called upon to explain my temper…and my temperament. I am by nature sarcastic, hotheaded, defensive, and a slammer/thrower (door, drawers, remote controls against walls).
Fortunately, God’s presence in my life means I have a new nature.
Unfortunately, I don’t always put on the new nature. You can get a witness, and his name is My Husband Rod.
Let me take you on a jaunt through a portion of 1 Peter, chapter 3. I’ll be honest with you: there’s some stuff there I don’t like. Mainly, verse 4 is what bugs me, because what it says is not dated or potentially offensive in a politically incorrect sort of way (as the “submit to your husbands” of verse 1 is often considered). What it says is rather lovely and promising, and seemingly rather impossible for this Irish-Italian warrior maiden: (Name origin: Kelly = warrior maiden. I’m not making that up).
“[Your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (New King James Version)
A what spirit? Quiet? Gentle? Huh?
Here are a few more confessions for you: I want to be unfadingly beautiful, in God’s eyes and in my husband and children’s eyes and in the eyes of the other moms at the library story hour and those skinny girls who are too small to buy off the rack at Old Navy. This is part of the reason I refuse to leave the house without make-up and part of the reason I’m praying and sometimes cursing my way through Weight Watchers.
I realize that this passage is speaking about inner beauty and well, I want that, too! But quiet and gentle? REALLY? Even as it relates to my family – especially as it relates to my family! – quiet and gentle is not my way.
Quiet and gentle translates to me as passive, weak, dependent, and mamby-pamby, traits I am intentionally teaching my daughters not to have!
The opposite of quiet and gentle – all the attributes I listed above – well, I like to think that those things just show I am a passionate person, and we’re supposed to be excited and zealous when it comes to God and our family, yes?
(Sigh. My guess is that “quiet and gentle” and “passionate” are not mutually exclusive).
So as I talk myself into acceptance of this admonishment (I had to deal with the submission thing a long time ago), I’m also pondering why exactly God has called me (and the rest of you wives) to be quiet and gentle.
What I have come up with is in no way earth shattering, but it’s certainly challenging: We, the women, the wives, the moms, are to set the tone for our home.
If we are high-strung, tense, combative, impatient, loud: what kind of home can we expect to have?
We have four kids. Until recently, they all lived with us. So now we’re down to one teenage girl, two toddler girls, a very loud and blissfully ignorant dog, several businesses run out of our dining room, frequent visitors, and too many TVs and phone lines and iPods and toys that sing and beep. It gets loud enough without my nevermind being added to it.
I get that. So what do I do when something drives me over the edge, be it the defiance of the eldest child, who just moved out with a big “in your face” to us or my struggle with winter depression?
Superficial answer: Hightail it to the Bahamas. (Who doesn’t love a January gospel cruise? Can I get a big, fat “Amen” here?)
Truthful answer: I was neither gentle nor quiet as our son, in his breezy, 18 year old manner, packed his T-shirts and video games and left our house. Possibly, some things were slammed by me in the immediate thereafter. And just yesterday, when the winter blues were so large and looming that I didn’t even notice that the sun was shining, I slammed a few more things and yelled at my two year old for saying “Mommy” too much and almost took Rod’s head off for, um, emptying the dishwasher.
(Ouch. It hurts to write that).
Truth: Putting on the new nature – in this case, the quiet and gentle one – is not to be done without help…from the One Who calls us to it.
In this passage of scripture, God is calling wives to a whole lot, six verses worth of tasks. It’s almost as bad as Proverbs 31! But as it goes with our God, who is kind and loving and really, really smart: if we follow these precepts, there is a reward.
In this case, it is something that we are in desperate need of right now: Hope. Do you feel that desperation, sisters, when you watch the news? Does your heart literally sob at the sights and sounds and just mere thoughts of women in Haiti who have lost their children, watched them die? Do you mourn for the American women who proudly sent their children to protect ideals of freedom and bravery but will never see them again? Are you haunted by infertility or a prodigal child or a chronic illness, or a have you been left to handle it all by yourself?
Hopelessness and fear are what God calls us to conquer in 1 Peter 3. We yell when we are scared. We enter into conflict when we feel no one else will protect what is dear to us. We lose hope when we take our eyes off our Savior. The enemy of our souls knows this, and he will seek to rob us of what we already know.
God says in 1 Peter 3 that if we are gentle and quiet in spirit, he will make us daughters of Sarah. Do you remember what happened to her? As an infertile mama, I remember it every day! Even in her lack of faith, God blessed her with her most precious desire: a son. And then he blessed her again and again and again and…you get it.
As I write these words, hope is rising in me. I have no hope of being all God called me to be without His help. But I have no doubt, none at all, that His help is available to me in all that I do. He will help me to be patient with my children, even when they are drawing on the kitchen floor with markers or screaming for hot chocolate while I’m on the phone with Random Important People, even when their laundry is piled so high that their whole bedroom smells like a moldy sock, even when they are moving in with another family just to escape us. God will help me to answer my husband with kindness, even when I’ve gotten myself and the girls ready for church and he’s not yet dried his Southern Gospel coif. God will help me to navigate excess belly fat that can only be eradicated by zero-point cabbage soup, endless gray days of winter, passive-aggressive Facebook statuses posted by toxic friends, and being unfollowed on Twitter for my taste in music, politics, and non-organic food.
It’s time for me to bite the bullet in this way. The immediate and fleeting satisfaction of a grown-up version of a temper tantrum in no way compares to having “great worth in God’s sight.” Can I get an “Amen?” That’s one word we don’t have to say quietly!