Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 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 3:3-4 NIV) My voice carries. This is perhaps my most recognizable trait: being the loud American.
I can’t help it. I was raised by two musicians: one gave me my voice, and the other taught me to use it. Eight years of choir and drama then honed it, helping me to breathe properly, to feel in my body where to sing or speak from for maximum projection. It’s the thing I know best how to do without even trying. It’s just who I am. Women with strong voices are used to being quieted. I think as much as we can’t help the decibels, others can’t help but maintain order, lower the volume, shush. It’s no one’s fault, but merely the dissonance of divine characteristics. Gentle and quiet. Loud and strong. Maybe we think we can’t have it both ways. Maybe I think that because I’ve a strong voice – and a propensity to use it – I’ve somehow misplaced the gentleness gene, or even worse: been miscast, a silly mistake, not really the kind of woman God intended. But as I dig around in 1 Peter 3, I start to grasp the concept of gentleness of spirit, an inner working of our hearts towards the mind of Christ. Gentleness is not something you can simply “put on.” It’s something we cultivate, in the safe space that sits between us and our Creator. It’s a quietness, not in volume, but in our souls: listening for His voice, waiting with open hands… and ready to speak when He asks. If God gave me a loud voice, He most certainly wants me to use it. But gentleness requires that where that voice comes from and how I use it is even more important. Do I use it to further my own agenda (as my Birkman suggests!), or am I using it to share the things of God, to edify the body, to speak up for the voiceless and against injustice? And am I too quick to use it in a desire to be heard? Or can I let discernment take the lead, and like Jesus at the wedding in Cana, be content to wait until it is my time to speak? If the inner workings of my heart are aligned with God’s, I can use this loud American voice with gentleness, so that all may know it is only because Christ is at work in me that I am able to speak at all.
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Philippians 4:4-5 MSG)
If God has called you to speak up and use your voice, what is He asking you to say? And how can you speak boldly while maintaining a gentle spirit?
What’s one small thing you can do today to cultivate gentleness? A prayer? A verse? An idea?
If gentleness is an inner tranquility, how do we make it “evident to all” (Philippians 4:5)? How natural is it for you? What might it look like?