Sometimes our outsides get in the way

I’ve been studying ‘quiet’ for over a week now and I have to say that as I’ve read and re-read verses that I’ve read and re-read for many years, I’ve had plenty of time for flashbacks…where I read that, when I taught on that, who said what about that…  Today’s verses are just one sample of the many verses that seem to come complete with a permanent flashback for me.

It was years ago and I was teaching a Junior High Sunday School class full of “pretty girls.”  There were weeks upon weeks when I wondered if they even wanted to be there, much less if they were taking anything in that I was trying to teach.  And then…I read these verses:

“Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

Oh, dear Lord, if there was ever a verse my girls needed to hear or would ignore the most, it was probably this one!  Fortunately for me, I had time to plan.  I asked the girls to dress up in their Easter Sunday best for the next week’s class.  You could tell that I’d finally struck a chord.  They weren’t sure what I was up to, but they were happy to oblige.

The next week, I had them do a mini-fashion shoot–complete with photos in front of the bulletin board in our classroom.  They were thrilled.  I still wouldn’t tell them what I was doing.

The following week, they arrived in class to find that I had developed the photos–yes, before digital!–and had them printed and arranged in a big circle on the board.  I left the center of the board blank.  As they ooh’d and aah’d about how great they all looked, I walked over to the bulletin board and started to write those verses in the center.

They went silent…and they stayed that way as I talked to them about how these verses didn’t mean that we were to ignore the gifts of beauty that God has given to us and we weren’t to deface it or go around looking unclean or dressed in dowdy clothing in an attempt to be super-spiritual.  These verses don’t say that at all.  Instead, they say to me that fixing your hair and wearing nice clothes or having fine jewelry is totally acceptable…as long as you understand those things aren’t contributing to the true beauty of who we are in Christ.  I told them that in our society, sometimes our outsides get in the way.

It happens when we focus on how we look instead of who we’re called to be.  It happens when we fail to look past the surface and see the beauty within.  It happens when we don’t develop beauty within.  It happens when we fail to recognize that treasures take time to create and time to find–what’s laying out in the open for all to see is rarely what’s truly valuable.  It happens when we focus on what we want instead of what God wants for us.  It happens when we place more value on the temporary than we do on the eternal.  It happens.

Flashforward all these years and I’ve had the pleasure of watching those pretty girls grow up.  Some of them got the message.  Some of them didn’t.  That happens, too.  They’re all grown and out on their own now…and the truth is still the same:  sometimes our outsides get in the way and the pursuit of the quiet life always begins in the hidden person of the heart.

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