More Than What Meets the Eye
1 Peter 3:1-6
“ You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Verse 4 (NLT)
My husband and I were watching Downton Abbey’s (painfully sad) season finale last Sunday. (Yes and yes, we have become DA junkies, I must confess!) The show has captured my interest for the beautiful surroundings of those twentieth century amazing homes, the elegance of the outfits in the 20’s and (thank God), the lack of bad language, such a rare feature on today’s television.
On this last episode, the Crawley family was on vacation at Duneagle, a gorgeous hunting estate in the Highlands. The estate owners, the MacClare’s, a couple who shared nothing in common but their fleeting wealth and pomp. In one of the scenes, Lord MacClare was discussing his marriage with Lord Grantham and he made a remark about his wife’s ever bitter demeanor. Indeed, the contrast between beautiful and serene Lady Grantham and angry Lady MacClare was evident as they sat side by side during the evening ball. I could not help but think of women I have met through the years who may not have necessarily possessed Vogue-worthy attributes and yet were remarkably beautiful. Then again, I have met some pretty gorgeous women who were once beautiful, but whose restless, unforgiving or shallow spirits have turned them into a shadow of their former selves.
The Hidden Person of the Heart
“Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] [b]interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.” (Verses 3 and 4 – Amplified Bible)
Chapter three of 1 Peter makes reference to husband and wife relationships, as well as the connection among believers in general. Wives are to accept the authority of husbands (v.1), husbands are to honor their wives and treat them with understanding (v.7), Christians are to be of one mind and sympathize with each other (v.8). All of these instructions have been taught throughout the centuries as good practice for a fulfilling marriage and healthy relationships among the saints. Notice that each one implies the way we should behave towards others. Verse four, however, talks about the “hidden person of the heart”, or else, the heart’s attitude of a godly wife, which influences her behavior towards her husband.
We live in a society that emphasizes appearance and fashion. Turn on the TV and any woman who is 140 pounds and over is likely to feel inadequate. That is, if we fall into that deceiving trap and believe our looks are more important than what is most significant to God: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV).
I would like to take a moment and look carefully into this insightful passage of Scripture and dissect the meaning behind what Peter was teaching the women of the church and how it applies to us today.
Let’s get that behind us. Peter is by no means indicating that women should look frumpy, not wear necklaces, earrings, make up, or, for that matter, have no concern about their outward appearance. That’s certainly not the case. I am the first to believe that we are to take good care of our bodies, eat healthy, look clean and polished for our husbands and for ourselves. After all, aren’t our bodies the temples of the Holy Spirit of Almighty God? (1 Corinthians 6:19). What Peter is emphasizing is that we are not to so concentrate on what is external that we disregard the attitude of our hearts. We are not to (merely) concentrate of adorning ourselves; we are to emphasize our efforts on cultivating our inner beauty.
A truly beautiful, godly woman will shine from within. She may not be the most gorgeous girl in class, but everyone wants to be around her. Her hair may be on a ponytail and she may not have any makeup on, but her husband will adore her as much as he will when she is dressed to the hilt. The reason he loves her is because of her heart, not her looks. And her heart is in the right place because she takes time to quietly pursue the first Lover of her soul, Jesus. He is the only One who can adorn us with true and lasting beauty.
#2 Watch Your Mouth!
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:
The other day I heard an older gentleman mentioning that he cannot do anything right according to his wife. Everything he does is met with criticism. My heart sunk as this dear man’s eyes filled with tears while he shared his struggles. Truthfully, when I am around women who complain and nag their husbands constantly, my desire is to take them by their shoulders, shake them and say: “what on earth do you think you are gaining with this.” I honestly do not understand. What exactly does one gain for complaining about the smallest things and putting their mate down (often in front of others)? Listen, don’t get me wrong – we all have our moments. Hormones flare up, we may be too tired or have had a terrible day at work and before we know it, we say something we regret. “Been there, done that”. The problem is not the occasional bad day, girlfriend. The problem is when you walk around looking for something to nag your husband about. The problem is when the most important things for a man, which are his honor and self worth are constantly dismissed by a bitter and condescending wife.
But You Don’t Know My Husband!
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Matthew 12:36 NIV
If you and I were talking face to face, you might tell me some indeed horrible things your husband does or says to you. And that these things have so damaged your heart through the years that your only reaction currently is to bite back. I am not going to pretend to know the damage that an abusive relationship can do to a woman’s spirit, but I will remind you that God is able to heal your marriage and your broken heart. Moreover, when you stand before Him one day, your husband’s actions will certainly be no excuse for the way you react. I know, it sounds so unfair. But it’s not, because He gave us His Spirit, which enables us to walk and act in love (2 Corinthians 3:18). When life on earth is over, we will stand before Almighty, Perfect God, and give an account for each word that came out of our mouths. Period. For every hateful gesture and action. Period. Although we are forgiven and eternally secure in Christ, we will still give an account for our actions and words. We will not be able to “present our case” against those who wronged us.
Expectancies – A Woman’s Worst Enemy
Then again you may have a perfectly good husband. One who provides for you and your family and who is there for you. And you still cannot seem to help but criticize him. Maybe the way he bites his toast at the breakfast table irritates you. Or maybe you wish you would not have to tell him what to do. You wish he would intuitively do what you want, like send you flowers, open the car door or pick up the toys around the house. And when he doesn’t, you get irritated. Well, believe me, it’s hard for a man to guess what is on your mind! So I suggest you talk to hubby. Not in a mean, demeaning way. Let the anger subside first. Go for a walk and talk to God. Then sit down and talk to him. Let him know what irritates you. Or upsets you. Or the longings of your heart. You may be surprised by his response and by how much your husband also longs to make you happier. Snapping, on the other hand, will never, ever, ever have the effect that you are hoping for.
There Might Be Another Reason for Your Anger
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24
Here’s a rhetorical question: What if your reactions have very little to do with your husband? What if there are things in your past that you have not laid down at Jesus’ feet completely? You may be repeating a pattern. You may yell like your mother did. Or you may be bitter like she was towards your dad. Or there could be a past trauma, something someone did to you, that keeps getting on the way between you and your mate. Oh, I believe this is so very common. We have all caught ourselves repeating harmful patterns that we learned from our mothers. We are what we experience and it’s natural to repeat our parent’s actions or have past traumas influence how we treat innocent people in our present. These are all natural reactions. Until… we meet… the Savior. And His redeeming power. And His soul-remodeling tools.
Remember this – you.are.not.slave.of.your.past.
Halleluiah!! When He bought us with His precious blood, He set us free from every single bad experience we’ve had. We just need to let Him open His grace-filled tool box and work on our souls. Remodel our hearts. Transform us. Psalm 139:23-24 is a powerful prayer that I started using some time ago. You will be amazed of the things God will reveal to you when you ask. So the first thing to do is find out what is dragging you down and preventing you from having an abundant married life.
Look Around … Do You See Little Eyes?
The last thing I would like to remind you is that your children are watching you.
Just as you are a product of what you watched at home, so will your children be. Often a daughter of a bitter woman will instinctively become a bitter person when she grows up. It’s a terrible cycle that can only be broken by surrendering your past and embracing a new future by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1 (NLT)
Years ago, during my first visit to my husband’s family, I came across this cute kitchen sign that I brought home for my mom. It said: “If Mom ain’t happy, there ain’t nobody happy!” It’s a funny saying filled with truth. Ladies, we are the barometers of our homes. When we are sick, or depressed, or sad, the entire atmosphere in our homes changes! There will always be sadness that we cannot help and hardships we can’t prevent, but for your family’s sake, do not create any more problems than life naturally brings! Build your Home, don’t tear it down with your own hands!
You want to stay forever beautiful? Cultivate the inner you. Through prayer, reading (and applying) God’s Holy Word daily and by biting your tongue when you feel compelled to complain. Concentrate on the good attributes of the people around you instead of the bad. Be a godly example for your husband and your children. Even if it looks like your efforts are not “paying off”, remember that you are pleasing the Lover of your soul, Jesus. He will honor your submission to Him and to your husband. I know He will.