Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let's Get Dressed – Spiritually, That Is

The fashion world is somewhat upside down these days.  It's difficult to find a dress that doesn't hit mid-thigh, a shirt that doesn't cling to your body so tightly that it's difficult to breathe (okay, not really), etc. 

I was reading my Bible last week, though, and I came across some verses which talked about spiritual clothing.  I realized I had a lot to learn.  Most of us know what immodest clothing looks like.  However, do we know what God means when he talks about being clothed with godliness?  In Proverbs 31, it says that a godly woman is clothed with strength and dignity.  Further down, it says: "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." 

So maybe we don't wear immodest clothing on the outside, but what are we wearing inside?   I rounded up some verses from the concordance and some wisdom from a couple books, and I just want to share what I found out. 

Peter says:  "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.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.  They were submissive to their husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."  I Peter 3:3-6

Let's go through these verses.  First, Peter says that our beauty should not come from outward adornment.  I don't think this means that we can't wear flattering clothing, that makeup is a no-no, or that earrings are off-limits.  I think what he's saying here is that we should not rely solely on these things to make us beautiful.  We shouldn't spend hours in front of the mirror trying our best to make us look our best.  It's okay to wanna look nice and pretty, but the outside's not where our true beauty should be found. 

So if our beauty should be more than what's on the outside, then what should it be?  Peter says that it should be of a gentle and quiet spirit.  He calls this unfading beauty.  "...the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." 

Trends come and go.  One month, maybe the color to wear is coral.  Then the next month it's mint.  It's impossible (and dumb) to try to change your wardrobe every time some new thing is trending on the fashion scene.  But get this.  The beauty that Peter is talking about he calls unfading.  This means it will never lose its luster, it'll never go outta style, it'll never (I hope) be left on the top shelf of a closet to collect dust.  It's a trait that will be beautiful forever.  For us girls, that's sure a relief. 

What's more, Peter says that this beauty is of great worth in God's sight.  How about that?  I'll admit, it's pretty cool when someone you think is pretty fashion-savvy comments on your outfit.  This is probably a dumb comparison, but it's all I could think of.  So when Peter says that this inward beauty – a gentle and quiet spirit – is of great worth to God, that's like when the most trendy person on earth comments on your outfit!  That's pretty neat.  When we wear the gentle and quiet spirit outfit, we are pleasing God.  "Don't you look nice today!"  ;)

Okay, we're almost ready to move on, but we need to discuss this gentle/quiet spirit thing just a little bit more.  What exactly is it?  I mean, what exactly does it mean when Peter says, wear a gentle and quiet spirit?  Does it mean that you aren't supposed to speak in more than a whisper?  Does it mean that you are not supposed to step on an ant?  (Bad example)  For this, I'm going to turn to a faithful standby.  The book So Much More (you can find it in my "books" link at the top of the page) has a really good few paragraphs on this character trait that are worth investigating for this part of the study.

From So Much More: "We hear about "free" spirits, fiery spirits, fiercely independent spirits, fighting spirits, proud spirits, revolutionary spirits, and just plain "spiritedness" paraded as the essential virtues for the ideal woman.  Our culture views a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit as a pushover."

They go on to list a Bible verse.  Psalm 37:11 says: "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace."  A gentle and quiet spirit is essentially meekness.  It is a spirit of meekness.  In our society, this is viewed as a soft, old-fashioned pushover.  But is that what God thinks of meekness.  Absolutely not.  He says that the meek will inherit the earth!  That's all the confirmation I need.  God doesn't view meekness as soft or weak.  In fact, He thinks so highly of it, that He's willing to give those who are meek the world!

From So Much More: "Far from the sign of weakness, a gentle and quiet spirit is the sign of a woman who is strong in faith, mind, and character."   

Okay, let's move on.  Third, this inward beauty is "the way the holy women of the past who puts their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful."  That's pretty awesome.  All the virtuous women in the Old Testament – and new – we will now see through new eyes.  I can think of a host of them who you can tell cultivated a meek spirit.  Peter gives the example of Sarah, Abraham's wife; Ruth comes to mind as well as Abigail, Mary (Jesus' mother), Deborah and Esther; the list goes on.  The gentle and quiet spirit made them all beautiful, and we can sense this just from reading about them.  This character quality will number us among them. 

If we cultivate a spirit of meekness, it will be apparent in our lives and when we come into contact with others.  It should be found in our hearts, our actions, our attitude, our character, and our words.  It should be evident in what we say, how we act, and what we spend our time doing. 

Phew!  I know that I have a lot of work to do!   Meekness is one of the hardest qualities (it seems) to cultivate, but I know that not only will our hearts will be beautiful, what's more, our lives will glorify God.  And that is true beauty.  xo, Ella

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Good Smell

Hello!  Recently my mom bought me a devotional called Wonderfully Made which you can find here.  One of the first devotions was called 'A Beautiful Aroma'.  It started out by telling a short story in which the author sat behind a woman who had a perfume on that smelled amazing.  The author and her mom who was with her asked the woman for the name of the perfume she was wearing.  They both wanted to smell just like her. 

The devotion went on to talk about how Christians should have a good smell too.  Sometimes when I'm outside in the late afternoon doing chores and it's cold and muddy and it smells like dead worms (sorry to be gross), I come into the house and I immediately can tell that whatever Mom's cooking for dinner is going to be awesome.  It should be the same way with us.  When we walk into a room, or have a conversation, or meet someone, we should have a fragrance that invites people to wonder what perfume we're wearing.  Whatever that "fragrance" is for you, whether it's your smile, your friendly disposition, your joyfulness, or your overall attitude, people should sense a difference in us as Christians. 

That difference should be good.  If you're a Christian and you have a bad smell, then what does that say about who you're trying to represent?  If I say I'm a Christian, then shouldn't I have a good smell?  If I chose to wear a scowl or a bad attitude, or acted as if I didn't care about people when I met them, or had  conversation, then that wouldn't smell very good.  Instead of bringing a good smell when I came into a room, I might cause people to pinch their noses and turn away in disgust.  I don't think that's how God's children should smell. 

I know that I don't always smell good.  My perfume isn't always so good that people ask me what I'm wearing.  When you claim to be a follower of Christ, can people tell when you walk in the room?  How do you smell; what perfume are you wearing?  xo, Ella

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Am What I Am

I found this verse in Corinthians while reading last week.  It was a good reminder of what God did for me in the time that led up to my baptism.  xo, Ella