Twenty-two years ago I lost a baby that I had carried through the sixth month of pregnancy. This was a long-awaited baby for whom my husband, three young children, and I had prayed earnestly.
I felt deeply bereft. I struggled with after-baby blues—but without a baby to compensate—and endured aching, empty arms. Then my doctors confirmed that the complications surrounding the loss of the baby would preclude my chances of having any more children. My already broken heart now felt completely shattered.
While I was struggling to come to grips with this loss, and at the same time trying to comfort Jeff and my children, who were also sorrowing, an unanticipated professional assignment was given to my husband. This singular opportunity, with the financing of most of our meager savings, took all five of us to the Holy Land. We were thrilled to have two weeks together in Jerusalem at Christmastime.
When we arrived, my husband attended the meetings to which he had been assigned while I took the beautiful children I did have and visited the sacred scenes of the Old and New Testaments. One evening, exhausted after a long day of sightseeing with the children and still struggling with my emotions, I quickly tucked my children in for the night. My husband was away at another meeting. I had the whole evening to myself.
As I stood at the window of our hotel room overlooking the Holy City, instead of being grateful for such an opportunity and for the blessings I did have in such great abundance, I suddenly felt very, very sorry for myself. Then, to add another blow, I recognized that self-pity and immediately felt guilty for not being able to just snap out of it. (Sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves!) At that age I hadn't yet learned that the perfectly understandable fatigue that can come to a young mother can put her into a dull, gray world where for a time it seems impossible to find the bright light of day.
I stood there for a long time, thinking it was difficult to be a woman. I had just that day visited the tombs of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, and at that moment in time all I could see were their sacrifices, hardships, and the disappointments they had encountered.
I wondered about the children they had lost or couldn't bear. I wondered about their heavy hearts and challenging lives. How did they endure what they endured in far more difficult times than my own? I started to weep in my silent grief and felt so terribly alone in it.
In the midst of the tears I offered a little prayer, asking as honestly as I knew how for heavenly light and information. Literally just seconds into my prayer, I felt the promptings of the Holy Spirit telling me to open my scriptures. I concluded my prayer and opened my Bible. The passage I first saw was 1 Peter 3:6, where my eyes fell upon the name Sara and the words, “whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
Well, I was not afraid but I certainly was amazed that I would turn at random to a passage of scripture so relevant to my personal circumstances. The Lord definitely had my attention, but without having had much experience in this sort of thing I wondered if this was just coincidence. I was yet to learn in my life how often and how dramatically the Lord would speak directly to me through the Spirit and especially through the scriptures.
I then read the whole third chapter of 1 Peter, which begins:
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”
And then verses three and four:
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:1, 3–4; emphasis added).
At first I was a little offended with the word subjection. I knew that Paul had firm views on the role of women, but this was Peter, the chief apostle, the president of the church! My husband and I had recently left the environment of an Ivy League university where we heard daily the views of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and other striking, usually strident, articulate voices for women's rights and “liberations.” In that setting I had vigorously defended my role as a stay-at-home mom and felt blessed in doing so. But now I had lost a baby, and I was blue.
The initial feelings that stirred in me when I read that first line of verse one almost caused me to stop, but I felt compelled to read on. I am so grateful that I did. I felt enormous peace wash over me with verses three and four. I knew they were the words of a loving Father in heaven through his prophet. They quickened me and lifted my heavy spirit. I can't fully explain what happened at that moment—the verses I read were nice but not that unusual—yet quite unexpectedly an unusual arousal of strength lifted me out of my lethargy and my despair. I began to feel a little of the power of that will which my father had told me characterized my nature even in my youth. I prayed again, with even a greater sense of urgency, and meditated after I was through. In that hour I began a search for what the Lord had called “the hidden man [or woman] of the heart, [even] that which was not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and a quiet spirit.” For the first time in my life I saw “subjection” as a virtue, a synonym for “meekness” and “a quiet spirit.” I felt subjection—first to God and then to others, including my husband—to be astonishingly liberating and central to the grandeur of Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel. It was a moment of true revelation, an epiphany in the land of God's greatest epiphany.
Fast forward nearly a quarter of a century. I am now nearly 60 years old and can honestly say that I have sincerely studied, pondered, experimented, practiced, tried, failed, and started all over again to be meek, to have a peaceful spirit, to have a quiet heart.
I have learned that with every covenant the Lord asks of us, he showers profusely his most glorious blessings upon us, beautiful gifts too precious and sometimes even too sacred to describe. Sara and her daughters had it right—peace is in the realm of the Spirit, not in the temporal world. Bowing the head. Bending the knee. Weeping. Blessings multiplied, pressed down, and overflowing.
It is obvious that Satan will do everything in his power to see that we don't yield, that we don't give ground. He didn't, and he is determined that we won't. This devious and fallen son has successfully taken gospel principles, including the language used to describe them, and has so distorted them that many of us, both men and women, bristle when we should be bowing.
Do you think that by his description of “a quiet spirit” the Lord meant us to be mute or ignorant, social doormats? Of course not. He meant that we would be intelligent enough to put our souls at rest, that we would have an inner calm, our minds and hearts in a peaceful state. “A quiet spirit” means we are integrated, settled, stabilized, stilled from the confusing, competitive stirrings within our own egos from the ill-conceived, disappointing, and betraying incentives outside us in the world of getting gain.
If we choose to recognize only the negative aspects of such words as submit, subject, and obey, it is little wonder that women recoil at their mere mention. But if we look up the word submission in any good thesaurus, we will see the synonyms patient, humble, softness, lamb-like-ness. These words fairly shout the discipleship of Christ!
Surely that is why the ornament of a “meek and quiet spirit,” in the hidden man and woman of the heart, is in the sight of God “of great price.” It is of great price because it is so uncommonly rare! True disciples always are. And women have a special invitation to demonstrate these virtues and claim their special blessings.
Lead image from lds.org
Of all the needs of the human heart, surely none is greater than the need for peace.
So writes Patricia Holland in A Quiet Heart, and her words resonate with all who find themselves in turmoil. The truth is, no one escapes this life without plenty of trials; even in times of prosperity and happiness, we can get mired in the busy-ness of living and lose track of the soul-centering principles of the gospel.
A Quiet Heart can help us find our way back. Its gentle, faith-filled tone immediately soothes the troubled mind and invites the reader to seek solutions and comfort from their one true Source. As Sister Holland assures us, "God will not fail nor forsake us."