A Gentle and Quiet Strength

Last week, I sharpened the focus of this blog.

Only a few words were changed, but I spent a long time in hesitation before publishing the update:

Sun Steeped Days is a place to trace piercing moments of wonder, honesty, and yearning back to the inextinguishable Light of the world, holding out encouragement to you to live with a gentle and quiet strength. 

It was “quiet” that gave me pause.

“Abiding” and “unshaken” were alternates — and I may still use these in single-glance descriptions elsewhere — but I returned to “quiet,” because it holds closest to my intended meaning.

“Quiet” isn’t a watchword for modern online writing, and it has the potential to be reviled in the context from which I’ve borrowed it — namely, Peter’s exhortation to wives to “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” (I Pet. 3:4).

Precious? Quiet? This is my hope for my guests? Surely we’re beyond hushing brave voices up in a world that strives for the empowerment of women.

But then, that isn’t what I mean by “quiet” at all. The word itself in Greek, hēsychios, means “tranquil; undisturbed.” It’s a mother bird on her nest in a thunderstorm, a firmly planted foothold on a bedrock of faith.

To me, it brings the image of a woman who has learned to hold fast to the enduring Word and extend grace to others in outlook and speech. The world might think her a pushover or an over-privileged naif who has never really undergone hard knocks… until suffering or tragedy or a simple conversation reveals the trust- and truth-bound strength underneath.

C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape describes her well:

I have looked up this girl’s dossier and am horrified at what I find. Not only a Christian but such a Christian . . . We’d have had her to the arena in the old days. That’s what her sort is made for. Not that she’d do much good there, either. A two-faced little cheat (I know the sort) who looks as if she’d faint at the sight of blood and then dies with a smile. A cheat every way. Looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth and yet has a satirical wit. (The Screwtape Letters, 117-118)

Often, standing by the crib for the night’s first bedtime prayer, I ask that our girls will each grow to have this spirit of gentleness and strength, of quietness and confidence.

For them we want what so many other mothers and fathers desire for their daughters: that they will be articulate, grounded, respectful, able to laugh, and free to be all that they’ve been gifted to become.

We are a family that values lively conversation, imaginative creativity, analytic reason, and dry wit. But for these to truly thrive, I believe we must also be able to discern how and when these things will benefit our hearers: when to weigh in, and when to serve with silence.

In a world that simultaneously shouts so many of its opinions and craves a look of true and empathetic compassion, our greatest offering — yours and mine — may well be a steady and listening gentleness.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… (I Pet. 3:15, NIV).

So I’ve set my course for words of this tenor.

Both in our family and on this blog, I am bound to fail. (Y will testify.)

But the destination is right and the trajectory is true, even if this shoddy helmsman wavers at times, and so this space will endeavor to be one that encourages you to keep living with a gentle and quiet strength, based on “this Cornerstone, this solid ground / Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.”

 

Anton MelbyeLighthouse at Stora Bält, Anton Melbye, 1846

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