Gentleness is one of those words I hardly hear anymore. Try it out in your own mouth. Find a phrase where you might use the word ‘gentle’, and practice saying it, and while you do that, let me share a gentling story of my own.
It wasn’t that she used the word itself. She simply evaluated her job and the space we both occupied and she made a choice to be gentle with me.
Remember that trip out west we took? The one that gently turned us back into a normal family? The trip to one of Alaska’s peninsula’s, where we let God’s glory refill our drained souls? The trip began in Michigan, but we stopped the first day out to spend with my brother and his family in Washington. We capered around Seattle’s outdoor market and let cousin’s reconnect while they giggled at golden pig statues, wrinkled their noses at fresh caught fish flying, and soared high above the ocean’s edge in a slow turning Ferris wheel. When we hugged goodbye and returned to the airport for the next leg of our journey, there was an inward groan because we had to switch airlines and check ourselves in all over again. Once tickets were printed and bags checked we headed for the security line. Shoes off. Laptops out. Snacks separated. Cars, stickers, books, crayons, and one chewed on white-ish bear that the littlest sleeps with, all zipped up in backpacks. Oh! And that one card of mine. The newest one that brands me as a remolded human. Yeah, so I hold this one card out to the gentleman security officer who’s watching us eject all this stuff into bins. He nods and points me to a separate metal detector that spins around my body while I spread eagle and raise my arms above my head. And when the spinning stops, I’m instructed to step into her space.
She, again, had me lift my arms out away from my sides, and in the same breath asked me where my prostheses was? My arm? My leg? ‘No’, I answered…….and felt the hesitation sit long.
Her eyes met mine. And I didn’t know the proper thing to do. The big second hand in my head clicked loud and I had a lightning quick thought of the line of people waiting behind me, so I let it all.just.fall…. “My breasts. Everything’s just man-made product now.” And I let my eyes flick away from her face.
Her hesitation to respond to that lasted far less than mine. “You look really good to me.” Her words felt like she had just handed me a warm cup of tea.
Friend, I had felt the hand of the Gentle Healer. I had touched His cloak. And because that woman was on duty at that hour, He had used her to gently remind me that He makes all things new. That I was still made in His image. The world did not know that I had been rearranged to save my life. She knew because I told her, and she had been brave enough to look into my soul and gently guide my thoughts away from shame.
She was and is a stranger to me, and yet, there were things I was feeling, stuffing, and unbeknownst to both of us, her words echoed Simon & Garfunkels song.
“When you’re weary, feeling small.
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough….
I’m sailing right behind you.
Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will ease your mind.”
And woman to woman, face to face, it felt like a shared hymn of grace.
Oh, if we could all be so gentle.
Here’s a little something else for you to think about while you’re searching for your phrase. Jesus took three years to minister to people. People of all shapes and sizes. The young and the old. The rich, the poor, and the painfully average. The Jew, the Gentile, and the demon possessed. In those three years, it would be impossible to know how many people he healed and made well. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t find a single story of restoration that He did out of anger or annoyance. Each person was treated with gentleness. Even when the room He was in sometimes buzzed with condemnation. It wasn’t and isn’t Jesus’ nature to scold you for being broken. It’s just not how He does things.
Ephesians 4:2, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (NLT). Remember, love does not boast, neither is it proud. It protects. And, sometimes, we need protection from our own battering thoughts. Sometimes we devalue the walk because what seems momentarily untrue may be the product of a new start.
Remember when Jesus had called Matthew to be His disciple? Matthew did not hesitate, but instead planned a big dinner with all his tax collector friends. Jesus walked into that house and immediately heard the Pharisees whisper in the windows, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” I am always humbled when I hear His response. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.” (Matt. 9:11-13 NLT).
And here’s where I feel myself slowly move to the proverbial floor to sit at Jesus’ feet. Because I’ve been that sick one. Because His mercy sends a stranger to realign my scope. Because there’s so much He can teach me, and His gentle manner draws me in and I want to be blessed.
Jesus gently heals us. He gently comforts us. He gently whispers to us. And, when necessary, He gently corrects us, because He loves us. Because way back, near the beginning of time, when the first two children had eaten that which was forbidden, and when they had found the first hiding spot, it wasn’t a great big wave of violence that God met them with. He came quickly to find them. He didn’t wait for those two guilt ridden mortals to crawl to His proud throne, but He went straight to the place where they were, and called to them. His pursuit of lost humanity began that moment.
Here’s what else I know, sometimes you’re the one called to do the gentling. Maybe through a long-awaited phone call, or a slow walk, or even those quiet words that needed to find their own space. It might be that extra four bucks she needed to cover some bread, or arms of compassion wrapped around his shoulders. It might be an easy high five, or a storybook read out loud in the middle of chaos. Because here’s the heart of it, not one of us hasn’t been roughed up a bit by crude noise and the constant race of real life. Not one of us hasn’t cried a lament. But God, in His gentle way, stands us up and looks into our eyes and says, “You look pretty good to me”. And. He. Means. Every. Word!
Growing in Gentleness,