This past Sunday we continued our nine month study on the Fruits of the Spirit. Our focus for August is the fruit of Gentleness. This week we talked about what gentleness is and how it is at the heart and nature of God.
In Matthew 11:29 Jesus lets us know that God is "gentle and humble in heart" and that we will find rest for our souls if we take his yoke upon us and learn from him. The problem is often we don't truly believe at a gut level that He is gentle in heart.
Over and over again we see in scripture that God is a God of gentleness, moved by compassion and aware of our needs. We see it as Jesus stooped and wrote in the sand with the woman caught in adultery and said to her, “neither do I condemn you." We see it when He stopped and asked in the midst of a busy crowd, “who touched me?” And then sought out the woman who wanted to sneak away with her healing, looked her in the eye and said “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed." We see it when He took the blind man by hand and brought him out of the crowd- outside of the village- and put spit in his own hands and touched his eyes to heal him (couldn’t he just say it and be done?) We see it when, moved with compassion, He touched the "untouchable," the leper who came to Him saying "If You are willing, You can make me clean."
Now for alot of us all that is hard to swallow -- sure we get it intellectually (we throw the word "love" out there all the time as it relates to God). But really, do we get that God’s heart, His essence, is gentle and humble? Do we experience that on a gut level? Sometimes it is easier to believe in a God who keeps score or is distant. It certainly doesn’t require as much relationally from us and we know what to expect. We know how to do what is right, toe the line, keep track of rights and wrongs, and keep our own boat floating most of the time. Or perhaps if we concede He is gentle then He surely "is not towards me" - we tell ourselves that we have just "messed up too much or are somehow "fundamentally flawed." Or maybe we don’t want Him to be gentle because then those who have hurt us will not “get their just punishment.”
Gentleness is not the same as weakness, as our culture might say. It is more like strength under control or strength directed towards a purpose. It acts instead of reacts. Like a pair of Oxen who are incredibly strong yet able to plow a field with precision and purpose. It also has the quality of being able to truly see another. Anthony Demello says “I lack the Lord’s own gentleness of heart, for I see deliberate malice where He sees ignorance and weakness. God’s gentleness sees and allows the other to be exactly where they are without the need to control, change or posses. It accepts and responds out of compassion not judgement. It holds all of us as beloved human children. Children who by definition stumble and fall and who in our humanness are prone to wander.
Brenning Manning talks about“the relentless tenderness of God.” It is a tenderness- a gentleness - that never gives up, it always pursues, always inviting us to deeper intimacy. God relentlessly, gently and tenderly pursues us so that we may be free and journey with him. Our challenge this week is to slow down enough and to be open enough to let him catch us-- to stop running just long enough that we are caught by Him and embraced in His Gentleness.
May our prayer be, “God, help me let you catch me.”
By Babs May-Clark