Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reflections on Gentleness

When I was 21, I lived in Spain for a few months while attending a Bible school. To this day, it remains the most renewing time in my walk with the Lord. It was a season of rest, of reflection, and of turning aright with God. He allowed me to spend time in what is very possibly the most beautiful place on Earth coming to understand Him more.

While I was there, an instructor told me that I was “so gentle,” which has stuck with me since then. When I thought of gentleness, I thought of someone who was generally soft-spoken, mild-tempered, quiet and submissive. I had never before been called gentle. This instructor absolutely meant it as a compliment; he spoke with a twinkle in his eye and a smile of kindness on his lips. So what did he mean?
Seven years later, in the midst of a deployment, I found myself studying Colossians 3:12-13:

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you… (New American Standard Bible)

These verses offer a clear list of characteristics that ought to describe one who belongs to the Lord. Most are fairly straight-forward; compassion is the seat of emotion, or pity, kindness is moral goodness expressed in action, humility is a sense of one’s moral littleness, or modesty, patience is perseverance and longsuffering, and bearing with is  holding up or enduring.[1] It is gentleness that piqued my interest.  

Gentleness and meekness are synonyms, and they have a beautiful definition. According to Strongs (2001), gentleness is mildness of disposition and a meekness “not of outward behavior only…it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting… it is associated with humility and self-control, and the opposite or self-interest.” This is grace of the soul that enables one to accept the actions of the Lord as good, without a view to one’s own self-interest. It is gentleness that enables one to “cease striving and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10, NASB).  

This deployment is certainly not what I would have chosen for my life. To live apart from my love for a year, missing anniversaries, birthdays and holidays is painful. God knows I have bouts of anger, exhaustion and sorrow over the situation. But throughout this year, He has consistently reminded me that He “will make known to me the path of life, and in [His] presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11, NASB). He has put in me that “inwrought grace of the soul” that allows me to accept God’s dealings with me without dispute.

When I was in Spain, we had a sort of “anthem”: the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.  This hymn exemplifies a gentle heart, and consistently reminds me of the deep trust I can have in my Father’s arms, regardless of the circumstances of my life.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

His wounds have paid my ransom.

Jesus went to the cross without disputing. He allowed himself to be sacrificed without resisting, with a heart of compassion for those mocking Him, with eyes only for the interest of His Father in Heaven (Isaiah 53). Jesus is the model of a gentle spirit, and the One who can absolutely understand the desperate struggle to accept one’s circumstances when they cause heartbreak.

So this season, I’m thankful for my God who cultivates gentleness in me. God’s will is perfect, though often a mystery. My prayer is that He helps us to remain faithful, hopeful, persevering and protected from Evil. I know that there is joy ahead, for me and for my husband.  

[1] http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Col&c=3&v=2&t=NASB#conc/12

1 comment:

  1. You are gentle, Katie, among many other good things. That instructor was right :-)