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A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

Written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss on . Posted in Nancy Leigh DeMoss

True Woman 101: Part 7: Total MakeoverA Gentle and Quiet Spirit

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss remembers a dramatic evening.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At True Woman ’12 in the Indiana Convention Center, an unexpected moment came when Priscilla Shirer got up to speak.

Priscilla Shirer: I hope that this weekend you did not just bring your cup. I hope you brought your cup and your saucer because He’s filling us up to overflowing today, isn’t He. And let me tell you something, if there is any overflow, I don’t know about you guys, but I want to catch all of it. Anybody with me?

Nancy: Here’s what Joni Eareckson Tada remembers about that night.

Joni Eareckson Tada: A Niagara Falls of rain crashed down on the roof of the Indianapolis Convention Center. It was thunderous. At the same moment, this woman did not skip a beat.

Priscilla: No matter how big the crowd gets. No matter how loud the rain falls. No matter how much chaos is going on all around you, you need to know that He sees you; that He cares about you; that the details of your life are not lost on Him.

Joni: And I prayed even as she spoke above the roar, “Oh God, bring us all showers of blessing.”

Priscilla: Let it fall in here, Lord, let it fall in here.

Nancy: Now, here’s what we do expect at True Woman ’14. We’ll hear from Joni Eareckson Tada and Janet Parshall and Keith and Kristyn Getty who’ve all been with us before. And then this year we’ll also be joined by some new guests including Spoken Word Artist Blair Linne; speaker, author, and blogger, Angie Smith; and Lauren Chandler—you’ve perhaps heard her husband, Matt Chandler, preach from Dallas; and others who will be joining us for that weekend. But most importantly, we’re asking the Lord to come and do a great work in all of our hearts.

So I’m hoping that you’ll plan to join us and bring a group of women with you from your church or your community. True Woman is coming to Indianapolis October 9–11. You can still get the early registration discount when you sign up by May 1. Get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

Yesterday we heard part one of a conversation between Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian. They co-authored a study workbook called True Woman 101: Divine Design. Chapter 7 of that book contrasts outward beauty with inward beauty.

They talked yesterday about true beauty with their friends Karen Loritts, Erin Davis, and Holly Elliff. Yesterday, they discussed 1 Peter 3 which says, “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” (vv. 3–4). Now, let’s pick back up on that conversation.

Nancy: I remember thinking as a younger Christian woman. I’d see these women with very quiet, reserved personalities, who seemed very godly to me, and just thinking, If I am ever going to be a godly woman, I’m going to have to have a personality transplant. Because that’s not how I’m wired. But really, we’re not talking about personality.

Holly Elliff: That would be contrary to Scripture because we know that God built us as we are. He tells us that. He loved us and fashioned us and designed us and planted us at birth the way that He wanted us to be.

Erin Davis: He created our inmost parts including the core.

Holly: The volume of your voice or the personality He put in you.

Erin: Thank you Jesus. That’s right.

Holly: So it’s not a bad thing. But it’s also something that God wants to grow us into. Philippians says, “Let your manner of life bring glory to God.” So it’s about understanding who you are but then seeing that under God’s direction and provision in your life. And when that happens, then those parts of us (my husband calls me “spunky”) that maybe wouldn’t fit perfectly with the gentle word here become more like Christ as we more and more allow Him to do that—and it is a process that’s lifelong.

Mary Kassian: I wouldn’t want women to think that as we become godly we all turn into the same cookie-cutter personalities.

Holly: No.

Mary: That’s such a misconception because people think, I need to be gentle and quiet.

Erin: Well, I think there are some other great words that we can use, and the Lord doesn’t need the Erin Davis translation. So I’m not trying to change what’s here. But there are others— receptiveness, responsiveness.

There’s a version of gentle and then there’s a way of being gentle with others and being gentle in relationships and gentle in communication that is not like, “Oh, handle her with care,” or “Be so gentle with her,” but being gentle with others. So maybe there are some other words that we can use to describe it.

Mary: Let’s just clarify this because the word “quietness” really means “an absence of turmoil.”

Holly: It’s a spirit term not necessarily a volume term.

Mary: Exactly. It’s like sitting at Nancy’s house the other day. Nancy has that beautiful river running by her house, and that river had not a ripple on it. You know how it gets in the evening sometimes when it’s calm? Just this peaceability about it. So that’s kind of the quietness, the calmness.

Nancy: As opposed to churning.

Mary: As opposed to bubbling, riled up, agitated. I think you can be a very exuberant woman, and you can be a very boisterous woman, and you can have a lot of fun as a woman, and you can be an extrovert, and you can still have that spirit about you where you’re not churned up, agitated where you have that peaceability of spirit.

Nancy: Now, my quiet friend, here, is trying to get a word in edgewise.

Karen Loritts: I wish I could practice gentleness. But I was thinking there is a difference like when I sat under Mrs. Borne or Mrs. Ponder, the ladies that really mentored and discipled me through the years. You can see that their gentleness, their quietness, even with their various kinds of personalities, it was controlled. They were under the control of the Holy Spirit. The way it came out in their individual temperaments, it still had that quietness. And you embraced and accepted it because it was Spirit-controlled instead of person-controlled.

Mary: You still saw Jesus.

Karen: You saw Jesus. And even Mrs. Ponder who was completely different than Mrs. Borne, she would just nail me. But she was controlled by the Holy Spirit, and she had that gentleness. You could tell when she got into groups especially with men or with other women, you could see when the Spirit of God was taking control of her and where God was in the room.

Nancy: Well, you’re making a good point here, because sometimes I’ll do a lesson like this or get to a passage like this and I’ll come away saying, “I’m going to be a gentle and quiet-spirited woman if it kills me.” And it may. So it’s not something we can do. This is the work of grace and the work of the Spirit in our hearts. This is not, “I’m going to be godly.” We start by saying, “I’m not godly.” It’s not a self-improvement plan. It’s Christ in me.

Mary: You know the gentleness part? I love the image of gentleness because elsewhere in Scripture it uses the same word as a mother dealing with a fussy child, that same sort of an attitude. So you’re putting up with other people’s fuss, and you’re putting up with other people’s stuff without getting ruffled over it, that’s really what gentleness is.

Nancy: Sometimes it’s also translated “meekness.” We have so many misconceptions of that word. But the essence of meekness is yielding rights, not demanding rights. 

Holly: There is such strength in there.

Nancy: But the person who has a gentle, quiet spirit does not have to be angry or fearful because they are relinquishing control to the Spirit of God and realizing, I don’t have to control circumstances, and I don’t have to hyperventilate when they are not to my liking.

Mary: Exactly.

Erin: The mother/child imagery really helps this to be understood. I mean, there’s a woman of a toddler who is a strong woman. She is rarely a quiet woman.

Nancy: Is this is a testimony here?

Erin: Yes. I have two very small children. And if they’re throwing a hissy fit, you throw a hissy fit right back at them and that thing is just going to escalate. Things are going to get nasty. But you can approach them with a gentleness that can calm that situation. And dads have a very different way. But a gentle mother in the face of a child in any situation is a real unique version of womanhood. So I think that imagery of mother and child is really good.

Karen: I had this really interesting situation when my oldest daughter walked into her womanhood. She would come in to the dinner table and just be snippy and snappy and just kind of nasty. You know what? I had to take her out later on and have a talk with her.

I said, “You are a believer. You are a follower of Jesus. And just because it’s your time of the month, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit takes a vacation. You have got to look at your calendar and gear yourself up knowing that that time is going to come. And you have to be gracious. You have to watch your mouth. You have to ask the Holy Spirit to take over. Otherwise hormones, they’re not going to heaven.” We can’t give our girls a pass on that. Right?

Well, it got better, but I wasn’t going to let her have a pass on that thinking that the Holy Spirit takes a break at that time of the month.

Holly: I remember talking with Stacey Smith who runs a woman’s prison ministry. They literally just walk those women through the Word. It’s a small band of women prisoners who are able to go through that program. But it’s phenomenal what they teach those women. But one of the first things they teach those women is that as women we cannot be driven by our emotions. We must be driven by the Spirit of God being strong in us and governing every word and every thought and every deed. That’s their foundation. That’s where they start because without that understanding, God can’t accomplish everything else He wants to do.

Erin: Here’s a lesson I’m just now learning which is, feelings aren’t facts. They’re just feelings. Now, gentleness is a choice. I may feel something inside, but gentleness is a chosen behavior. Quietness is a chosen behavior. Feelings are just feelings.

Holly: And in those moments when your two-year-old is just going crazy, it’s a hard choice.

Erin: Yes, I’ve had a few of those, and it sure is a hard choice. Absolutely.

Nancy: Did you women always, I think I know the answer to this question, but I just want to hear you respond. Did you always, since you knew the Lord, just desire to be gentle, quiet, amenable? Did you always think of this as an attractive quality, because we’re talking about true beauty here? Or how are you coming to see it as something attractive and valuable?

Holly: It is an ongoing process for me. Every time God drops something new into my life, it is a moment of surrender to still keep a quiet heart or gentle spirit.

Nancy: But what makes you want that? What makes that attractive?

Holly: Well, now what makes that attractive to me is that I have seen what happens when I don’t make that choice.

Erin: It ain’t pretty.

Holly: No. It’s not pretty. I know the difference it makes in my relationships with my children and with my husband and with what God is calling me to teach other women. So I know now that I cannot look like Christ if I don’t make choices that allow His Spirit to be in control. If I’m in control, the result is not what we see in this passage. I know that now. Now, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to still go back and make those choices to surrender.

For instance, on the day of my daughter’s wedding, I found out my dad had gone into intensive care. My mom who had Alzheimer’s and was there for the wedding, could not go home to Nashville. She was with us and has never left. That was five years ago.

I have to tell you that that first year that Mother was with us, I wrestled with the Lord and with maintaining a quiet heart and a gentle spirit because it was unexpected, and it was tough. It wasn’t on my calendar at all. So God does that. He drops things. Karen, I know you’ve had things like that in your life where God drops things into your life that you’re not ready for.

Mary: I think what makes it attractive for me is Jesus makes it attractive. But I think it is a continual process of reminding myself and always looking at the big picture. I'm reminding myself constantly; I'm asking myself the hard questions:

  • Am I truly valuing what Christ values? 
  • Am I loving what God loves? 
  • Am I cultivating what’s precious to Him? 
  • Am I pursuing it?

Nancy: And how do you pursue it? Let’s just talk about it because it is a process. It’s a journey, as is all of sanctification. It’s all life long—until we see Jesus. So what are some practical ways this kind of spirit can be cultivated?

Karen: I know for me, when we were in various ministries and we transferred from one ministry in Texas to another ministry in Georgia, I didn’t do very well. I’m a nester, and transition and all that was really bothersome to me. We had two little babies, two little children.

I knew that I needed to find a home church and also some godly women that would be my prayer shield; that would step up and help me to be the woman that I needed to be because I didn’t have that growing up. All my role models were back in Pennsylvania. I was living down in Georgia.

So God sent me two incredibly godly women in our church, and I gave them permission just to build into my life. They modeled all the things that I wanted to be. They were the visible model where I wanted to be because I didn’t have it in my mother. I didn’t have it in my family. They would call me up, “Karen, go get your Bible.” Or I may have looked at my husband a certain way? They would nail me on it.

Nancy: Well, those godly role models are huge, but then you also said another one. “Go get your Bible.”

Karen: Yes. Go get your Bible. I would write the date when Mrs. Ponder would say that to me. I could always go back when I was mad after she talked to me, “I’m going to do it my way.” I could go back to that Scripture, and in the quietness of the evening the Holy Spirit would work on me, I would look. It was those things. Then they prayed for me. They prayed for me when I didn’t want to pray, when I was mad and upset and bitter, they prayed for me. They prayed me out of a lot of stuff that God was helping really to get me.

But having those people in your life, giving them permission to speak truth into you. Then having the guts and the courage to say, “God, I want to do it Your way because I need to have joy. I’m not happy right now, but I need to have joy. And when I lay down at night, I need to be at peace with You and with myself.”

Mary: I did something very brave and that is to pray and ask God to increase the sensitivity of my conscience. I asked the Holy Spirit to give me an elbow in the ribs when He saw that happening in my life.

Nancy: When you weren’t having that spirit?

Mary: When I didn’t have a good spirit. And let me tell you, I don’t know how many times I’ve just been conscience stricken. And through that process, realizing how far I have to go and how much sin rears its ugly head and having God convict me and then having to repent for it. It really isn’t fun when you have to say, “I’m so sorry I’ve had a very clamorous attitude here, and I need to ask your forgiveness.” So you just need to go blow it a few times like that and have God convict you.

But I found that to be very helpful because God says if there’s stuff that He wants us to have, we need to ask for it. So if we ask Him for it and ask Him to make us sensitive to it, we’re going to start seeing more of that coming out of our lives.

Holly: Well, and it’s a good gift. I mean, Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is a good gift that God gives us so that we can go to His Word and understand it, and He can interpret it to us. As women are praying for us, we suddenly have ears to hear and eyes to see what might not have made sense to us six months before. But when God brings the truth, those people lifting our arms often help us be able to apply it to our life.

Nancy: I think we can’t underestimate the power of the Word—the power of the Truth. “Sanctify them by Your truth,” Jesus prayed, “Your Word is truth.” I just see if we are pumping the world’s models and spirit wholesale into our minds—through the entertainment, the people we are around, the things we are reading—that’s the attitude we are going to develop. You become like the people you spend time around.

You want to be like Jesus? You’ve got to spend time around Him, the Living Word, in His written Word. I’m thinking of that verse in 2 Corinthians 3, verse 18 that says, “We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, we are transformed . . .” I love that word.

Mary: ". . . from glory to glory." I love that!

Nancy: “Transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” There is that process there; there’s that progression. But you spend time in God’s presence in His Word. And I can’t tell you how often . . . When I am feeling catty or all that churn is going on inside of me, it’s amazing when I get into the Word and I meditate on it and I behold Christ and I get my mind renewed by His Word, He changes me. Because I hate being obstreperous. I don’t want to be that way.

Holly: Obstreperous?

Nancy: Yes, it’s contentious, obnoxious, loud. I so feel the frustration of, “Lord, why am I acting this way?” And again, it’s not necessarily loudness, it’s spirit. It comes and I say, “Lord change me.” And His Word does that.

Erin: That’s a good point. I would just say to young women that maybe before we can get to that point of more time in the Word, there are some things we have to cut out of our current time. There are some influences that need a radical amputation. And this notion that you can swim in the waters with worldly beauty; that you can be as wrapped up in that as everyone else; that you can love the things of this world and not have it impact your thoughts on beauty, it’s a bold-faced lie.

And so as a young woman, or as any woman, but I see this more in younger women. We don’t make wise choices about our media, about what we intake about beauty messages, and then we get all tangled up about true beauty. So there needs to be some choices made. I’m going to read the Word more. I’m going to read this, watch this, listen to this a whole lot less.

Karen: I also think, Erin, that those of us that are in the body of Christ that may be a little bit older and we see some of these young women, we need to help, go down and help them, because I didn’t know a thing [at that age].

Erin: Absolutely. Can I just tell you what young women don’t have the words to tell you? They want you to speak truth into their lives. They don’t know how to ask you. They think you don’t have time. They say so often to me, “I know you’re busy, but . . .” I say, “I’m not too busy. Let’s talk about it.”

So they don’t know how to ask you, but they are so drowning in this issue of beauty, true beauty, identity, who am I, and they don’t know how to ask you. And so, find a younger woman and make this your goal to learn true beauty together. She wants to know.

Karen: That’s right.

Nancy: Okay, we’re unfortunately out of time on this discussion. But I want to take it back to one more Scripture. Young, old, just the contrast here between the world’s system of beauty and God’s system. You know the verse, but we need it again and again.

Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty [physical beauty] is vain.” Beauty is not sinful, but it just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s deceitful and vain. It makes you think that you have everything when you may have that and have nothing if you don’t have an inner heart that’s beautiful.

But here’s the contrast. “A woman who fears the Lord [a woman who has reverence for God, a woman whose bent, her inclination is toward God, her priority is on God’s priorities for her life, that woman who fears the Lord] is to be praised.”

And then it goes on and talks about the reward. We want that reward. And that doesn’t mean we start to look dowdy or frumpy or don’t care—that’s another extreme. But the goal is not to be unkempt or ugly. Taking care of ourselves, a wife for her husband, those are good things. But the ultimate true beauty of the true woman comes from a heart that fears the Lord and a heart that says, “Lord, I trust You. I’m willing to let You be sovereign over my life and my circumstances. I’m going to be amenable by Your good grace. I’ll say ‘Yes, Lord.’”

Leslie: We’ve been hearing from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian, co-authors of the workbook True Woman 101: Divine Design. They were joined by their friends Erin Davis, Holly Elliff, and Karen Loritts in that conversation about chapter 7 of the book.

That chapter contrasts the world’s definition of beauty with a biblical definition of inward true beauty. It’s just one of the practical topics you’ll cover when you go through this workbook. We’d like to send you a copy as our way of saying thanks for supporting Revive Our Hearts. You can go through the study by yourself, or check it out for your women’s small group.

You can donate by visiting

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