Mama used to tell me, "A lady is known by the condition of her handkerchief and her shoes." She had an array of handkerchiefs bordered by lace, crochet or tatting. Ladies dressed up even to go shopping in those days, and Mama carried a handkerchief that matched the rest of her attire. She picked it up daintily at the center and then held it lightly in her left hand or latched it securely under her Spandex® watch band. When she went to church, a lacy handkerchief was placed in the flyleaf of her Bible, with the lace showing from the edge of the cover.
Mama brushed her own shoes (only one or two pair of serviceable black) every time she went out--at least until she married Papa and he began doing it for her. He would smile with pleasure as he brought up a high shine with the deft flicking of the brush and a steady wrist. Making Mama pretty delighted him.
Mama tried to make me, her only daughter, into a lady, too. However, I grew up with a distinct preference for my brother's jeans (they didn't make them for girls back then) and tennis shoes. Mama would sigh and determinedly wrap my hair in rag curls every Saturday night.
Mama's dictum about handkerchiefs and shoes would hardly hold up in this day of tissues and track shoes. So what does it mean to be a lady?
Peter, in his instructions to wives (1 Peter 3:1-6), recommends "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." In this day, when just listening to the news in the morning can keep one's heart and mind in turmoil for the rest of the day, maintaining "a gentle and quiet spirit" is no small task.
Peter points us to Sarah as an example. She was submissive to her husband, calling him "lord" (KJV) or "master" (NIV). If I tried that with my husband, he would look at me with astonishment and perhaps ask if I were ill. Actually, I don't think Sarah was always so submissive; she must have seemed like a harridan when she confronted Abraham with her irritation with Hagar. Even though the Abraham-Hagar union had been her own idea, she blamed Abraham and demanded that he send Hagar away. It could not have been a ladylike confrontation.
However, Sarah must have learned many things in her long life--submission being one of them. Perhaps as she learned submission to God, she found submitting to Abraham easier. I know that when I am irritated with my husband, I find that my relationship with the Lord has cooled. Submission in marriage, one to the other, follows submission to God. Then a gentle and quiet spirit follows.
"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
Oh, Thou Savior divine,
All my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me."
Let us ask the Lord today for a submissive spirit to Him and to our spouse and for a gentle and quiet spirit. With that start, peace can pervade our homes. Then our loved ones may say, "Declare her a lady, a woman of God!"