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 two barriers in our lives that prevent the seed of gentleness from growing. As children of the Creator, the seed of gentleness is already planted in us. God's invitation for us is to cooperate with the Spirit to remove these barriers so the seed will flourish and grow.
The first barrier is our unrecognized/unobserved beliefs. We all have preconceptions, judgments and beliefs that we make of ourselves, others, places, things and circumstances in our life. When we are unaware of these preconceptions and judgments we act and react to people and events in certain ways- often unconsciously. For example: he is always a grumpy pain so I will just avoid him; this neighborhood is trashy , so I avoid it and it's "type of people"; I am such a mess, stupid, ugly fat etc.. When we respond unconsciously out of our beliefs we cease to see the other person, ourselves, place or event as it really is- in that moment(maybe he isn't grumpy today, maybe there is beauty, peace and joy in that neighborhood, person, myself or people group). When we miss seeing other people, ourselves, place or thing as it is in the moment we cannot be gentle. We treat them (or ourselves) based on our foregone conclusions rather than on who or what is actually in front of us- a beloved creation of God. This is not to say that we venture unaware into any neighborhood or conversation with others. Rather, it is to say that in order for gentleness to flourish we must become aware of our preconceptions, judgments and beliefs about ourselves, this neighborhood or person. We then can turn them over to God and ask afresh in each moment what He would have us be, say and do.
The second barrier to gentleness is unhealthy attachments. Unhealthy attachments are people, things or circumstances that we tell ourselves are necessary for our life and happiness. Often we have unhealthy attachments and we don't even realize it (e.g. to our job, our family, our status, our need to succeed, our weight, our health etc). Unhealthy attachments prevent gentleness simply by the fact that we will do what it takes to ensure these attachments remain secure- even if it means violating our values or excluding others. For example the person who doesn't want to, but yells at their kids or spouse because their behavior was embarrassing and in their opinion caused them to "lose face". What we don't often realize is that our unhelathy attachments keep us in bondage. We become slaves to those things we can't lose- be it our jobs, our family, our wealth, our status, our health, food, drugs, sex, etc.. We spend countless hours attempting to control or secure things we believe are critical for our life and happiness. When we are enslaved, even when we are unaware that we are, gentleness cannot flourish.
However, when we cooperate with the Spirit and allow ourselves to become aware of our attachments and beliefs, their destructive forces in our lives lessen their hold on us. Gentleness begins to flourish as we have the courage (which God can and happily supplies) to look at what we are attached to, as well as our preconceptions, judgments about ourselves, others, places, things and circumstances in our life. Then we will be free to enjoy life as Life presents itself to us in each moment of our day.
By Babs May-Clark