August 16, 2007

The Strength of Gentleness

Mary Southerland

 

 

Today’s truth

Always be joyful in the Lord! I'll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are (Philippians 4:4-5).

 

Friend to friend

What does gentleness have to do with strength and joy? Everything! “Let everyone know how considerate you are” can be translated, “Let everyone know how gentle you are”. When gentleness is woven through every part of a relationship, that relationship will grow strong and produce great joy. I know! It sounds somewhat backwards, doesn’t it? Not so in God’s eyes!

 

The world tends to view gentleness as weakness when God teaches that gentleness is a controlled strength. Our son, Jered, is six-feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, every ounce in the right place. As the starting fullback on his college football team, Jered worked out every day and soon became solid muscle. He and I have this “game” we have played for years. With a twinkle in his blue eyes and dimples flashing, Jered will begin teasing me, tickling me and in short, pestering me until I issue the familiar ultimatum, “Son, if you don’t stop, you will regret it!” With a wicked grin, Jered will invariably jab one more rib or hurl one more teasing remark - and we are off! It is quite a sight to see this five-foot-tall mother chasing her hulk of a son around the house. Jered always dissolves into laughter, which is his downfall and renders him almost helpless, allowing me to catch him in a matter of minutes. He then lifts me off the ground in a huge bear hug and says, “Mom, you got me. I give up!” Right! We both know he is ten times stronger than I will ever be and could inflict great bodily harm if he chose to do so. Thankfully, Jered is one of the gentlest young men I have ever known. I don’t know how many times over the last 23 years of Jered’s life we have stopped traffic to rescue a turtle that is dangerously crawling across busy lanes of traffic. Injured birds, lost ducklings, wounded puppies, abandoned kittens and throw-away people find their way to my son, somehow knowing he will take care of them. He always does. Jered’s controlled strength is the perfect definition of gentleness.

 

Now I, on the other hand, tend to leave bodies in my wake as I pursue life. God is teaching me to be gentle in my relationships, promising that joy and strength will be the result. As always, I asked God how I was supposed to accomplish this formidable task on my own. And as always, He said, “Mary, you can do nothing on your own. Trust Me and make the right choices in your relationships.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I am beginning to. As with any calling of God, we have choices to make in order to obey that calling.

 

  • Gentleness chooses to give up control.

 

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. It allows discussion and

is willing to yield to others.” (James 3:17a NCV)

 

Gentleness celebrates the differences in each other, giving people room to grow and change. Gentleness neither needs nor demands control of any relationship. We tend to be “box-builders” when it comes to our relationships, demanding that the people in our lives fit the box we have designed for them. Gentleness is willing to give up control to the One who has the power to change lives.

 

  • Gentleness chooses to forgive.

 

Colossians 3:12-13 “As holy people whom God has chosen and loved, be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

 

Gentleness is quick to give and receive forgiveness. The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son whose relationship had become strained. The list of hurts grew so long that the son ran away from home! The father immediately began to search for him but after months of failure, the father made one last desperate effort by placing an ad in the local newspaper of Madrid: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” The ad was signed, “Your father.” The next day at noon, in front of the newspaper office, 800 Pacos showed up, each one hoping for forgiveness and love from their father.

Gentleness always takes the responsibility to initiate forgiveness. In the course of each day, we have endless opportunities to forgive and to be forgiven. Every day brings an opportunity to set someone free rather than control them. Gentleness at work in our daily walk is powerful and pleases God. And there is no greater joy than that!

 

Let’s pray

Oh, Lord! I can be such a brick at times, frantically running through each day, missing opportunities to love, to care and to show others Your gentleness. Please forgive my insensitive heart and give me eyes to see the wounded ones. Please give me ears to hear what is behind the words and tears. Above all, give me Your heart of compassion so I can love with Your gentle love. Amen.

 

Now it’s your turn

Consider the scale below and rate yourself accordingly (1 = gentle and compassionate; 10 = blind and unconcerned)

 

1 - 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10

 

How did you do? I encourage you this week to focus on your relationships, asking God to teach you how to be gentle, how to minister compassion in His name and how to be “God with skin on”. At the end of the week, examine each experience and see how much joy it produced in your life.

 

More from the girlfriends

By nature, I am not a gentle person. I tend to roll right over people with my vision, my agenda or my plan, leaving wounded hearts and questioning minds in my wake. The Father then arranges the circumstances of my life in order for me to live up to my name. “Mary” literally means, “bitter – but when broken – sweet”. God continually keeps me broken so that I can be gentle. And it is a good thing. May He do the same in your life because it is in gentleness that joy and love reign. Need help? Check out Mary’s CD, “Love that Never Fails”.

 

 

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