Recherchez non pas la beauté que donne une parure extérieure: cheveux habilement tressés, bijoux en or, toilettes élégantes, mais celle qui émane de l'être intérieur: la beauté impérissable d'un esprit doux et paisible, à laquelle Dieu attache un grand prix. Car c'est ainsi que se paraient autrefois les saintes femmes qui plaçaient leur espérance en Dieu, et elles étaient soumises à leur mari. Tel était, par exemple, le cas de Sara: dans son obéissance à *Abraham, elle l'appelait: mon seigneur. C'est d'elle que vous êtes les filles, si vous faites le bien sans vous laisser troubler par aucune crainte. (1 Peter 3.3-6)
Tim borrowed my English Bible several mornings ago, took it and his coffee outside to read on the terrace... and I haven't seen it since. So I've been reading in my French Bible again, a lot more than I had in recent months. It makes my quiet time a bit more work, but it is always profitable when I invest that extra effort. I know I've said it before, but studying God's Word in a second or third language is like reading a beloved, well familiar story - but seeing it through new eyes and with renewed perspective and you pick up on nuances you may miss in your mother tongue.
Reading through 1 Peter, the phrase "à laquelle Dieu attache un grand prix" stood out to me like never before. I think it is because of the words "grand prix." That's another thing that happens when you learn another language. Phrases that you'd used all of your life in your mother language take on a new meaning. I'd always thought that Grand Prix referred to the well-known Formula One international car race... where the victor wins a huge amount of money, earns fame and/or notoriety, lots of sponsor-ships .. the list could go on and on. I've since learned that there are many "grand prix"es, world wide, in many different contests or sporting events.
A literal translation of the French, however, means a great prize. Here is the same passage, in English:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 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. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
In English, the same phrase is translated as a precious thing or as something of great worth. But I've appreciated and been challenged thinking about this idea of a gentle and quiet spirit being something that God sees as a grand or great prize. Maybe that is because implicit in the idea of a prize is effort invested to be eligible to receive it... at least the willingness to try.
County fair season recently finished back home in Michigan. I always think of those fairs when I think of winning a prize... particularly all of those crazy games and contests that you find on the Midway. It is next to impossible to win a valuable prize in those contests - whether that be because they are rigged in some way, involve slight of hand, or are just next-to-impossible-to-successfully-do, I really don't know. But one thing is certain. If you don't give it a try, you most certainly won't win the prize.
Several years ago, the Lord started showing me that He wanted to develop in me a gentle spirit and it has been a journey ever since. I think it started with a Beth Moore study on the fruit of the spirit - and an illustration that she used to communicate the idea of what God-like gentleness meant. And I realized in that moment that gentle was not a word that could be even remotely used to describe me. Of all the traits that were discussed in that Bible study that year, God made it clear that gentleness was most lacking in my life.
But after that initial conviction... that thought was shoved back up on the shelf and I went on with my life. Some years passed and I was asked to lead a ladies' Bible study at our Nigerien church. The Lord took me to Colossians 3, where He introduced me to His dress code - a part of which included this characteristic of gentleness. Since that point, it seems that everywhere I seek Him, He re-impresses upon my spirit the need for gentleness to be one of the defining characteristics in my life. It seems I still have so far to go, so much to learn, so thoroughly need to change.
I'm going to take this month of October and enter into this search for that which is a "grand prix" in the eyes of God, as I dive first into these verses and then see where the Lord takes me - 31 days of writing about a gentle and quiet spirit. I also plan to share about women in my life who've modeled or mentored me in this particular area.
One other paraphrase I read of this phrase in 1 Peter said: "which God sees as exquisite." I really liked that one, too... what woman wouldn't want the Almighty to look at her heart within and describe it as exquisite? Maybe that is another description of a woman after God's own heart?
this week's gratitude list:(#'s 3158 - 3175)
a really great birthday last week, topped off with a raspberry torte made by Nadia!
so many notes and birthday greetings from friends around the world
that yucky weeks to come to an end
the beauty of words
resuming riding lessons
a new book that I'm thoroughly loving
back to church after a few weeks of missing it
challenge of learning something new
playing with our sweet kitten named Achilles who almost always makes me smile with his kitty antics
laughing with our little girl drama queens
our oldest daughter, who can really, really be quite funny
watching, helping, encouraging our oldest as he makes decisions about colleges and applying and the future
finally getting those curtains hung
Sunday afternoon naps
remembering that even though it felt like a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-week, there are still many things for which I can be thankful