Gentle was the word that erupted from the young woman’s mouth as her young son reached his hand out to pat our excited pup. I wasn’t sure whether it was a command for my dog or her son. Maybe both.
We demand gentleness from others but so easily fail to offer it to ourselves. We chastise our appearances, our responses and our thoughts. Yet we often offer grace towards others.
How would you council another woman in your position? My mentor asked me one afternoon. It stopped me in my tracks. I see life so black and white at times that I miss the beautiful hues in between, most especially when it comes to dealing with myself.
Stepping out of a harsh year, culturally and often personally for many of us, we come forth with demands and expectations on ourselves that we would never have placed on others. The year my Dad died, I continually thought, “get it together.” Yet lavished grace on my sons when their grief overtook them.
We makes demands on our own time, our attitudes and even our relationship with Jesus.
In our gracelessness we miss the whole point of intimacy with the Grace Giver. He is not the angry school master snapping our knuckles with a ruler when we oversleep or step over the line.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus extends the invitation after praying to the Father and castigating unrepentant cities that had refused to return to Him.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you were unwilling…” (Isaiah 30:16)
The chastisement is not in the failure but rather in the refusal to return, to repent, to lean fully on Him.
Jesus’s words in Matthew are extended to those who will fail Him, who are burdened with a failure to be gentle with themselves, those who desperately need grace. That is each one of us.
The Message translation uses the phrase, “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” to interpret Jesus’s invitation. He is gentle. His hand is extended to you as it was to Peter, as the disciple stood in the boat.
He encourages us that gentleness is a learned concept. Then He urges us to learn its rhythms. Not forcing and prodding and criticizing our weak souls but rather through repentance, grace and leaning on Him, like waves lapping the shore shaping the sand over time.
Gentleness is learned, as most things are, through imitation. Learn His gentleness with you, with others, with Himself and we will begin to imitate that gentleness with ourselves and others. And thus we will bear fruit of the Spirit of God within us.
“…and the fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness…” (Galatians 5:23)
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