Tend the Flame
- Friday, September 19, 2003
In the previous column in this series, I discussed the picture of femininity that the world presents. The biblical picture is quite different. The Bible portrays true femininity not as external assertiveness or attractiveness, but as something that is fundamentally internal. Biblical femininity is a conquest of the heart and a beauty of the soul. Scripture's instruction to women emphasizes qualities such as reverence, self-control, purity and kindness.
Peter instructs women that, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment.... Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1Pe 3:3-4).
Is Peter saying the godly woman is to be seen and not heard? Or that women can only be godly when devoid of all adornment? No! Peter is encouraging women that the audience that really matters is an audience of One. The Bible provides women with wisdom that is timeless and fully relevant for today.
In a world that would limit your vision to the superficial and external, the woman of God fulfills her call from the inside out. The great examples of women in the Scriptures-Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Mary and others-all exhibit this character, regardless of the task to which they were called. These women were not foolish, rebellious or vain. They demonstrated true loveliness by being prepared in heart for the time and task of God's choosing.
The fight for power and position that consumes the feminist woman, and the lust for fashion that enslaves the worldly woman, are both enticements to the Christian woman. Who wouldn't be tempted to seek to "do it better, and have it all?” But at what cost?
The church is made up of women and men working in complementary relationship. In its ideal state this relationship, through a balance of outer impact and inner fire, produces a church strong in mission and deep in passion for God. But where lust for power or obsession with beauty is present among its women, the church is hindered in its passion for the Lord.
In the Scriptures the idea of a flame is often used to signify God's presence. The flame of God's presence led the children of Israel through the wilderness. The Spirit of God came upon the Christians at Pentecost as a flame. A flame represents power, purity, and light. A flame also requires tending and care. The five wise maidens in the parable made sure their torches were ready, and that the flame stayed lit. How can you as a Christian single woman follow the example of the wise maidens, and care for the lamp of God's presence in your life and sphere of influence?
Have you ever walked with a candle through a dark and drafty house? You learn quickly to protect the flame from the elements, or risk having it go out on you (typically, right after you hear a creepy noise in the next room). The tending of a flame is not done with bold gestures or impulsive activity, for as strong as fire can rage, it can also flicker and fade. Tending a flame requires patience, attention to detail, and a wisdom to know that the stronger the flame, the farther the light will push back the darkness.
How can you, like a wise maiden, tend the flame? First of all, don't let the howling winds of cultural change blow out your fire. Be a woman of the Word, and let the Bible define you, not the feminist movement or the fashion world. Study what Scripture says about you, and value its wisdom for your life. Recognize that stirring dying coals and fanning promising sparks in the church demands character. Discontent, double-mindedness, worldliness and the like produce impatience with God and his plan for your life.
In the end, your eternal reward will not be for the ministries you ran or the spiritual gifts you used, but for the lives you touched. A woman who perseveres in her distinctive calling in God will fan the flame of faith in the hearts of many, and will be of great value to the work of God in her generation.
But we must not just be content to tend the flame! Next time, we'll look at how to fan the flame and even pass the torch to others.
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