Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gentle and Quiet Spirit

I remember sitting in a hallway with twenty-something other middle school girls on a youth retreat many years ago. 

If I stop with that sentence right there, I might have a mild panic attack just thinking about the awkwardness.

Anyway, everyone was supposed to go around and tell the group her favorite Bible verse. You could see alarm on some faces and hear a mad rush of turning pages to find some verse other than John 3:16, while others reflected a smug serene confidence because they could pull out any number of quotables from the Bible drill glory days.

There was this one girl. I don’t remember her name but I sure remember her presence. She was loud, in every sense of the word.  Her voice, her laugh, her personality. Just LOUD. Well, it came to be her turn in the group. And I’ll never forget what she said.

“My favorite verse is 1 Peter 3:3-4. ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, 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.’”

As soon as the words left her mouth, I could hear uncomfortable shifting and not-so-quiet snickering, and I could see looks of disbelief, rolling eyes, and just a couple of smiles or quiet nods around the circle.

And it really got me thinking.

I have two daughters. The one who talks…well, never really stops. She talks, she sings, she asks questions INCESSANTLY. She talks even when she is the only one in the room. She is not often…well…quiet. And the other one? Well, she may not talk yet, but she will certainly not be ignored. She will make her presence known in a heartbeat if she has the inclination.

I pray for my two girls to have a gentle and quiet spirit. But honestly, it’s not the ceaseless noise that prompts me to pray more diligently.

It is the 3 year old tantrum when things don’t go her way. It’s the yells of frustration when she can’t get the stinking shoe on her own foot. It’s the 1 year old biting attack on her sister who pushed her off the rocking horse, and the impatient kicks and screams during a diaper change. Those are the moments that drive me to my knees, praying for the Creator to develop a gentle and quiet spirit in my daughters.

Because those are the moments that are like a mirror to my own soul

And I realize now that having a gentle and quiet spirit has very little to do with our volume.

A synonym for the Greek word used for “gentle” in 1 Peter is “meek.”  John Piper describes those who are meek as people who “trust in God, commit their way to God, are quiet before God and wait for Him, and don’t fret over the wicked.” And how about the word “quiet”? Well, it means tranquil. Which means that the opposite of quiet in this case is not loud. It is agitated, restless, troubled, distressed.

So when my girls are throwing tantrums in the grocery store (and can I please kindly rebuke the person that invented the grocery cart that looks like a car but drives like a minivan on a single track bike trail? Can anyone actually make left-hand turns in those things without at least almost knocking down a display of Cheerios? Or a store employee?) and when they are looking me square in the eye and yelling “NO!” with all of their sad little hearts…

God, help them to trust in You. Bend their will to Your own. Grant them a peace that passes understanding. Give them a gentle and quiet spirit.

And when I find myself fretting about the future, or sighing out of weariness of the mundane, or giving in to every fear that crosses my mind…

God, help me to trust in You. Bend my will to Your own. Grant me a peace that passes understanding. Give me a gentle and quiet spirit.

And that sweet, loud girl at youth camp back in the last century? Well, it all makes sense now, honey. Thanks for that.