In this life we will have pain and suffering, times when our vulnerabilities will be like exposed nerves, exceedingly sensitive and susceptible to deep damage.
In the moments we are most assailable, one of the greatest gifts we can receive is the gift of gentleness. Gentleness recognizes the rawness of the pain and hurt, strength sets aside the world’s prescription for “tough love”, and chooses a love of tender compassion.
It is by the grace and mercy of the Lord’s hand, bringing beauty from ashes, that can take a very painful experience and teach us a most important lesson.
A recent experience in my own life has me finding new focus on gentleness. Gentleness is listed in the fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23 (NIV), “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
This year has held several hard circumstances. The year has kind of felt like road burn from falling off a bike and landing with flesh fully exposed to a gravel road. I am sore, raw, trying to get the little pieces of gravel out of my skin without increasing the damage done.
It is in the raw soreness that I am finding increasing emphasis upon gentleness, realizing what a beautiful gift gentleness really is. Gentleness is a tender touch, cool water, to remove those little bits of dirt and rock from raw skin. It isn’t rough scrubbing with great pressure doused in rubbing alcohol.
Gentleness requires great kindness. Gentleness requires great patience. Gentleness requires great love.
1 Corinthians 13:5 (TLB) says, “Love does not demand its own way.”
How many times have I not been gentle when trying to “love” someone? How many times have I demanded my own way, even covered it under the guise of “tough love”, which isn’t actually love but at the core is selfishness instead?
How many times have I made assumptions about what I think is best for someone based upon a limited scope of information that I have?
Like a spark becoming a flame, assumptions can grow to accusations about a person’s circumstances or even their character, fanned on by the heat of personal demands.
Have you ever had a situation where someone is demanding something from you, claiming that you owe them something they feel is due? Maybe they demanded an explanation, demanded that you accepted their plans, or demanded that you do something in particular. In that moment was the experience marked by love?
Being gentle seems to be the opposite of demanding.
“Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
One of the definitions of the word bearing, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit.”
Do you see the word fruit in this particular definition? What if instead of just fruit, it was spiritual fruit? The act, power, time of bringing forth spiritual fruit.
If we are humble (not selfish), if we are gentle (not demanding), and if we are patient (not impulsive) we will see the fruit of the Spirit brought forth in the circumstances of our lives. Then I do believe that we would have moments greatly marked by love.
Gifts of love are given with nothing owed, nothing demanded, nothing due. Gentleness can be a very loving gift both to give and to receive.
When I think of gentleness, I think of my husband. He has a very gentle heart, but very gentle hands. My husband is also incredibly strong. His hands are rough from the very manual nature of the work he has done in his life. It’s nothing for him to move stacks of 40 pound bags or guide 1,000 pound cattle from one section of the barn to another or carry in a car load of grocery bags for his wife.
Even though his hands may be rough, his touch is tender. He has the ability to be firm, but chooses to be gentle. There is something about that strength which makes the gentleness such a gift.
The choice. We have a choice to be gentle or to choose to be demanding.
Live It Out
I hope there have been experiences of great gentleness in your life, times when someone chose in great love to be tender and patient towards you.
As I write this I achingly know that there have been times where we have all experienced the harsh demands of others in our lives. Those times are painful, they scare and hurt us at the same time. Our anxiety increases, putting us in fight, flight, or freeze mode. Demands raise expectations and heightens pressure to perform.
We can not go back and change what has happened in the past, but we can move forward choosing to be gentle, choosing patience, choosing kindness, and choosing love. In making these choices, we choose to be like Jesus.
There is none kinder or more gentle than Jesus. The Bible is filled with stories of his hands bringing a tender strength into a broken and hurting world. When his hands blessed and broke the bread that fed thousands (John 6:1-13), he gently met such a basic daily need of so many.
When Jesus took his hands, dirt, and his own saliva to make a mud to gentle place on the eyes of a man born blind, he gave the gift of sight (John 9:1-12). Jesus’ gentleness not only gave the man a renewed fullness of one of his senses but gifted him with new purpose because he no longer had to sit and beg.
In great humility, gentleness, and love Jesus endured the beatings being willingly sacrificed on the cross, bearing with all of us in the fullness of our sins so that we could experience full forgiveness. In generosity, Jesus brings the peace of the Father and shares with us the encouragement to receive the Holy Spirit, by which we can be blessed with the richness of the fruit of the spirit.
What a gift that is!
Pray Through It
Beloved Lord, thank You so much for the gift of Your gentleness. Lord, Your love is so great, so patient, so kind, to be eternally gentle with each of us. Even when we don’t deserve it, when we selfishly make demands, or when we ignore You completely. You are still there with open arms filled with love and compassion for us.
Lord, in this day, may we see, feel, and experience Your love in greater richness so that we may have full assurance that You are especially fond of us individually, as well as collectively.
Lord, help us to bear with one another, choosing gentleness, patiently, tenderly, humbly, so that we may see a full harvest of spiritual fruit in our lives. Lord, may we be a blessing to one another as a reflection of the blessing that You are to us.
In the gentle, tender, loving name of Jesus I pray, amen.