Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it 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.
1 Peter 4; 3-4 (NIV courtesy of Bible Gateway)
When I first read the title of this chapter I kind of cringed inside. I am not a generally quiet person. I’m not really loud, but I do like to talk. I also tend to get louder when I feel passionate about a topic. Fortunately this chapter immediately deals with that concern by highlighting the fact that the Greek word in 1 peter mentioned hear doesn’t mean quiet in the sense of volume or personality. But rather to do with inner calmness and being at peace with God. Well, truth be told, that stung a little too.
Calmness has not always been easy for me. In some areas I’m learning it. I try not to worry about little things when it comes to my kids. I don’t sweat falls, bloody lips, colds or low grade fevers. I try to give my kids as much developmentally appropriate freedom as possible. This has two reasons, one, so that I don’t lose my mind trying to control and protect them, and two, so that they can develop the confidence they’ll need to do things for themselves later in life. But in other areas of my life, I still struggle with feeling at peace. It seems like I’m constantly trying to make everything just right so I can actually relax and enjoy my life. Except that hardly ever is this the case, which means I almost never really relax and take the time to enjoy the current stage of my life.
I thought the big transition was going to be turning 30. But it felt OK for the first six months or so, until I realized that I’m going to be 31 in March and my husband will be 35 in just a few days. Suddenly I felt like I had no idea who I was, or what I was doing with my life. I had the sudden feeling that my life was passing me by while I was changing diapers and doing laundry. I worried that I was wasting the best years of my life. Certainly, not a calm, quiet spirit.
This author’s interpretation of the passage from 1 Peter 3 is that we shouldn’t find our identity in how we look or what we wear, but rather from knowing who we are in Christ. We should be at peace knowing who we are in him. My husband and I recently discussed how appearance focused I’ve become over the last year. Not all of this is bad. It helps me feel better about myself when I take care of myself. But it’s become something I think about far too much. Some how, I’m struggling to figure out who I am, again, and a side affect of this is me becoming incredibly self-conscious about how I look and dress.
I never used to care about such things much at all. I was very comfortable with myself. But at some point I felt like to be accepted by other women I had to be more stylish. In some ways it worked, I got noticed, but I also felt like I had to constantly be on my guard. Years ago a friend made a comment about how I never wear makeup. I don’t think it was meant cruelly, but it made me realize that some women see me negatively because this is not something that has ever been a priority for me. Even before kids, I rather get extra sleep then spend a half hour on makeup before work. Now, I still don’t wear makeup every day, and when I do my version is much lighter than most. But I am aware of the need to be taken seriously, by both men and women, and that making extra effort with my appearance is a way to do that.
There is nothing wrong with looking nice. But I think and worry about it way too much. It boils down to my lack of a quiet spirit. I don’t feel at peace within myself about who I am. This is a kind of a downer post for this series but I don’t have the answer yet. I know I need to further explore what it means to have my identity in Christ, but I also need to give myself grace. Yes, I will continue to get dressed to honor my body, my husband and children and the God who gave me this amazing body (flawed as it seems to me at times), but I need to get over myself a little and stop focusing so much on my outward appearance. Being at peace with God and having a quiet spirit within my heart is far more important.