Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I’m in the final sprint of a three year master’s degree at a seminary in California. During this season of my life, there are times when the stress levels and various responsibilities feel a bit like going deep sea diving but instead of an oxygen tank, your backpack is full of rocks. You feel me? We’ve all had those seasons.
A few months ago during a class on conflict and peacemaking (hello, irony), I was at the end of a long week with a major project deadline looming the next day. And to be honest, the syllabus requirements simply felt unreasonable. I’m not usually one to send emails when I’m stressed, but in a moment of weakness, I lost touch with my prefrontal cortex and shot a frustration email to my professor stating how unrealistic this particular assignment was.
About a half hour later Jesus got a hold of my spirit, whispering that I had just missed the mark, and reminding me that life was not going to end. So I sent a follow up email. This one was an honest confession of how stressed I had been, and how my original message wasn’t really about the assignment, but more about my inability to juggle everything in my life. I apologized for trying to transfer a burden onto her that wasn’t hers to bear.
I got an email back only a few minutes later.
Keith, I appreciate you so much, and I understand. Listen. If it comes from the heart (yours), it will go to the heart (mine). Trust your gut and let it flow.
Immediately, my soul was put at rest. What a response to create a sense of well-being between people. Words of affirmation, followed by an acknowledgement of understanding and cooperation. This is what the Jesus community can look like. From hearts.... to hearts.
Our culture is currently dominated by fear and separation. One byproduct is that these attitudes are working their way into the American church as well. People often find themselves talking past one another because what’s being said is coming out of a voice of frustration or fear rather than deeply from a heart of humility. But when we can share with gentle love and honesty, we can really get somewhere. That is, if we are willing to walk the way of Jesus.
Why is gentleness not seen as a higher value within the Christian community? It’s literally one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Why do we raise up strength and confidence more than gentleness and humility? Jesus is leading a revolution today, and it’s going to look a lot like humble, listening love.
Gentleness is learning to speak humbly from the heart, and learning to have soft enough hearts to receive from each other with humility. Let’s reclaim the ability to speak from and to the heart, rather than from combative opinions or fearful silence.
I still had hours of work to do that night to finish my research presentation. But the weight of it was different, because I had received not just a gentle response from my professor, but an assurance that I was being heard and that we were on the same team. What a gift she offered me! That little moment of grace was so emotionally impactful that I shared it with my wife Bethany, and while I worked she decided to turn the experience into a holy reminder that God will always do something good when we slow down enough to speak from our hearts to the hearts of others. So now these words hang in my office.
Who can you listen to better this week? Who can you be more gentle towards? Who can you be more vulnerable with? Keep moving toward heart to heart interaction. Trust God, trust your gut, and let it flow.
Jesus, soften my heart so that it can give and receive.