Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Culture v. Christ: Godly Women

Yesterday, Kim posted a thoughtful but short piece about her upcoming weekly book study with the ladies at her church, on a wife having a quiet spirit in her relationship with her husband. It really got me to thinking since this is a subject that has come up for me personally quite a bit. Not only in the context of the husband/wife relationship but in a more general context as well. It may seem strange, but if you ask 10 different people what a "quiet spirit" means to them, you might get at least 12 different answers.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that these things are important, and important enough to understand them from a Biblical perspective. Some people will tell you that a quiet spirit means a sort of mousy personality, or a false type of humility. Other folks might say that a quiet spirit means someone who will never touch a controversial issue or engage in any kind of conflict at all. Some will even go as far as saying someone with a quiet spirit has their head in the sand and is blissfully ignorant of what's going on around them. I really don't think any of these things apply to the Biblical definition, but those are some of the more general definitions I've read over the years.

I thought about this quite a bit yesterday and two women I know came to mind. Both are Christian women with strong opinions on doctrinal matters, but both of them strike me as women with quiet spirits. They are ladies that know how to pick their battles (mature enough to discern what's worth standing up for, and what is worth letting go), and discerning enough to know how to handle those conflicts with grace and truth, but without compromise.

I looked up several verses of Scripture yesterday and here is what I found:

Specifically as it pertains to wives:

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.(1Peter 3:4)
In context, this is referring to what makes a woman beautiful to her husband, and what pleases God. It shouldn't be the outward adorning but the inward character that she displays. More specifically the verse in this passage is referring to the wife of an unsaved man - pointing out that it will be her inward character of meekness and a quiet spirit that honors God.

In my Bible study notes it says this:
"Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will."

Other verses that pertain to being of a meek or gentle spirit: Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12, Titus 3:2 and James 3:13. Of course there are many more but these were just a few that sort of jumped off the page for me as I looked this over.

I read that definition of gentleness or meekness several times, and have to say that it convicts me more each time I read it. How often do I say I trust in God's sovereignty over all things, but then assert myself (in a variety of situations) as if God needs my help? More often than I care to admit, actually. While being assertive is not always a bad thing (as it pertains to being positive and dogmatic about Biblical truths) it is a very bad thing if you're assertive in the pushy, "this had better be done MY way" sort of style. When we do that, we cross the line from having a quiet assurance that God's will be done, into this arena that is all about self and wanting things done in our way and in our time.

My generation of women are a generation that were raised up in a society of women that could be seen on the nightly news tossing their bras into burn barrels and marching around in public demonstrations screaching about equal rights. For many of us, the constant examples of womanhood we had as young girls were these women that could do it all - have a husband and family, work full time outside the home, demand equal pay for equal work, fly to the moon and become a CEO. These were women that found their voice, so to speak, and were not afraid to use it, and often. Discretion was out the window and making a public spectacle of themselves was the order of the day. I still remember watching a bra-burning rally on the nightly news when I was about 8 years old, and something inside of me recoiling with the feeling that this was just so wrong, on every level. I couldn't have articulated it this way at such a young age, I just knew it was all so very wrong.

My generation of women grew up and came to maturity in an age where art imitated life, and suddenly the Barbie doll aisle at the local toy store became a mile long, because you could buy Barbie in every imaginable "career" known to man. She also had to have her accessories, so you could get the car, the van, the beach house, the office, and more. Television shows reinforced this message of loud, obnoxious, pushy women when more and more sitcoms became popular with just these kinds of women's characters in the starring roles. The message was further pounded into us as liberal, uber-feminists posing as teachers in our grade schools, junior high, high school and colleges reinforced this message in us every day. By the time many of us reached young adulthood, we'd had this message of womanhood and what being a woman is all about so reinforced in us, that many of us felt the pressure to "become" some kind of superhero chick that could do it all, have it all, say it all, and take no lip from anyone about it.

For those of us that did not grow up in a church, with strong examples of godly, gentle women, this is what we grew up with. The contrast is as striking as night and day, and the affect it has had on many women who are converted to Christ, is a very long road of unlearning these worldly attributes of womanhood, and finding that balance between standing up for what is right and doing it with grace, in a God honoring way.

I'm encouraged by the definition of meekness where it says "This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will." It is indeed true that we cannot change ourselves, that is a process of the Holy Spirit over time. It is true however, that by His grace we can purposely and intentionally set our minds and hearts on the task of desiring this change, and seeking His strength and wisdom toward that end.