Not everyone seems to be in search of tranquility. At the Y recently, I have resorted to reading Outside magazine while on the elliptical machine, when I can’t find a new issue of one of the magazines I prefer, and the intended readers apparently are looking more for excitement than tranquility. But even they probably find some kind of peace of mind and spirit while battling the elements and the limitations of their bodies rather than the stresses of modern life.
I’ve been thinking about tranquility lately, not because life has been particularly hectic, but because of a verse in 1 Peter. At Bible study last week, we looked at 1 Peter 3:1-7, where Peter gives advice to women who are Christians and whose husbands are not. (There is no corresponding advice to men with non-Christian wives because in the culture of that day, the head of the household determined the religion for the entire family.)
I found myself wondering about verse 4, where Peter commends “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I understand what it means to be gentle, but what is a “quiet spirit”? We agreed among ourselves (the half-dozen women at the study) that it probably did not have to do with how talkative a woman is or how loudly she speaks.
I’ve always tended to be quiet, but I’m not so sure I have a “quiet spirit,” so I wanted to know what that meant. Later I looked it up, and found out that the Greek word would be better translated tranquil. It means neither disturbing others nor being disturbed.
There are times, of course, when doing what is right will disturb others, but doubt that is what Peter means. I think it’s probably more along the lines of “creating a disturbance” or “disturbing the peace.” And there are also times when one should rightly be disturbed at evil or suffering, and being unaffected by it would be a sign of indifference rather than tranquility.
The commentaries I read point out that the tranquility Peter is talking about comes from within, regardless of circumstances. People tend to seek tranquility by looking for a tranquil environment and tranquil circumstances. Those might help one feel peaceful for a time, but they don’t produce a tranquil spirit.
One page I looked at pointed out that being tranquil is not something one achieves directly by deciding to be tranquil, but rather it is the end result. So what produces a tranquil spirit?
Proverbs 14:30 contrasts a tranquil heart with one full of envy. Isaiah 32:17 says that the fruit of righteousness is peace/quietness. There are probably other verses, but certainly being content with what one has, and having a clear conscience (both because of being forgiven and learning to do what is right), go a long way in producing a tranquil heart.
There are some (this page is one example) who recognize that the word translated as quiet means tranquil, but still interpret this verse to mean that a Christian woman (they generally prefer the word “lady”) should not use a loud voice or be boisterous. She should be soothing and mild. She should avoid extremes, even positive extremes such as being exuberant.
I think there is certainly a place for being soothing and mild, but I don’t see that a tranquil spirit precludes being boisterous on some occasions. I’m not a sports fan myself, but can you see being mild rather than boisterous when your team wins the championship? And there are absolutely times that call for exuberance – not least of which is in worshiping God.
I know that for many years my heart was anything but tranquil. I was generally quiet, but it was often a quiet of wanting to withdraw from what was going on around me, or feeling too upset to risk saying what I was feeling, or the despair of thinking that nothing I said or did would make things any better.
I found myself reflecting, this morning as I worked out at the Y, and this afternoon as I watered my garden, that I think I actually feel content with life lately. Not that there aren’t problems – just this week the doctor told me our younger son is pre-diabetic.
But I think I’m getting better at focusing on being thankful for what I do have rather than unhappy at what I don’t have. (And it’s not “things” I don’t have that I wish for mostly, but closer friends and better relationships.) I wish I felt closer to God, but that also, I think, is an end result and not something I can work on directly.