1 Peter 3:3-4
3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but 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.
The way to beauty does not come how we imagine. This is so like God to give us a dichotomy of terms to wrestle with. To save your life, you must lose it. To be first, you must put yourself last. To become more obedient, give yourself over to God’s grace. To be beautiful, don’t try to be beautiful (on the outside).
Oh how we long for beauty. It’s our deepest question as women, married or not. “Am I enough?” “Am I beautiful?” In our deepest desire, we long to radiate beauty. This is a truth as deep and as old as the very first story, when Adam first saw Eve. In other creatures God made, the male usually displays beauty. A male duck has coloring, a male lion has a full mane, a male peacock has a brilliant display of feathers. But not with humans. Females display most of the beauty as a reflection of God’s beauty. Her beauty, our beauty, is actually a reflection of the beauty of God. I think this is why we long for it so deeply, because it’s truest, purest form, it’s God beckoning us to Him, being made in His image, in His likeness, so we can know him, eternally, intimately, like no other creature in creation. When we long for beauty, we are actually longing to connect with God as his image-bearing creation.
There’s a smile that comes over my heart when I read that something is very precious to God. The scripture says its when a women makes herself more beautiful, or adorns herself, with inner beauty, the “hidden person of the heart.” This “imperishable”- cannot be taken away, lasts eternally- type of beauty- comes from a gentle and quiet spirit.
I must confess this verse has not been one of my favorites over the years. I often thought: That just another measure of beauty that I’ll never attain- “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Often we get this picture of the gentle and quiet spirit that is completely unrealistic for most of us. Like Melanie in Gone with the Wind. “Oh Scarlet... I wish I could be like you...” she coos. Melanie is gentle, quiet, and just plain wonderful the whole movie. I’m more like Scarlett when the going gets tough, saying exactly what I’m thinking, without thinking.
I’d like us to consider the gentle and quiet spirit in another way. It’s not a voice that’s literally soft spoken, or a shy demeanor, although those personality traits are not bad or better. I’d like to propose that when we take the deepest, most hidden parts of our hearts- our shame, our feelings of inadequacy, our deepest pain and hurt, our deepest longings- when we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, there’s a shift that happens in our spirit. When we begin to trust what God says about us entirely, there’s a softening and a quieting that happens to us at the heart level that isn’t tied to our personalities.
What does God say about us? How does he see us? God says that we are worth the death of his Holy Son, even in our worst, most sinful moments. God says he not only loves us, he wants us in his family. He adopts us at salvation, granting us a full inheritance as his sons and daughters. He miraculously infuses his actual, Holy Spirit and gives us a new heart at salvation, to be able to walk in step with him, to actually speak with him, because he longs to be loved by us.
Zephaniah 3:17 says,
“he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. “
You bet he rejoices over you, this verse says he sings over you. Loudly! When this type of loves comes over your heart, your striving for love and acceptance in this world can be quieted. You can trust this love so deeply, your anxiety and worry can be calmed. Knowing your beauty as a woman comes from this beautiful, loving God can settle our up and down of feelings of beautiful and ugly. Which can give every women hope for actual, real beauty that never ends.
My own story of actually feeling beautiful began when I first read Captivating, by John and Staci Eldredge. As these truths about beauty, and how our beauty is attacked at a spiritual level, began to penetrate my heart, I began to actually perceive myself to be more beautiful. On the outside. I got a tattoo of the word “beauty” on my back, so I would not forget the shift of believing I am beautiful. There’s almost this audacity to say to God, “I’m actually not beautiful.” What? You, created to be the incarnation of the beauty of God, created by the most talented artist there every was or will be? You? The object of his love and affection, especially in your most sinful moments? You- the one he sings over? Actually, you are beautiful and it’s time you started believing it.
Like a raging river, all our fear, shame, guilt, and worthlessness comes barreling into our hearts and from our hearts. This comes to a halt when it comes to the reservoir of God’s love. This is real beauty. This is the inside beauty- so sure that my heart is furiously loved I’m not longer brutally striving for love, so confident in my worth that God gave me on the cross, that I’m not longer hectically stuffing my mind things that give me worth in this world. Gentle. Yes. Quiet. Yes. In God’s perfect love. Yes, it is precious, and it’s not going to sag or fade with time or lack of willpower. Thank God.