We all have a sweet, beautiful picture of gentleness in our head.
The mom who gently bandages her son’s knee. The grandma who gently teaches her granddaughter to sew. The teacher who gently explains the meaning of a new word. The pastor who gently offers words of wisdom to a family in need. The father who gently prays over a holiday meal.
Moments of gentleness that create all the warm, fuzzy feelings. Moments that inspire paintings, tell stories and bring tears to our eyes.
Then, real life happens.
When you dig in behind the picture, the same gentle mom is yelling at her kids to hurry or they’ll miss the bus. The grandma impatiently scolds her grandchildren for rough play near the china cabinet. The teacher pushes through a lesson for the sake of time. The pastor cuts a conversation short because another person needs his attention. The father harshly asks for quiet during an important phone call.
Lots of real life happens and gentleness poofs away in a foggy mirage.
Throw in our busy, stressful, hectic, dangerous lives overseas and gentleness is incredibly difficult to possess or demonstrate or give. The struggle is real.
We know that gentleness is a Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians.
Then, Ephesians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” A reminder to us that gentleness should be plainly evident to those around us. Our families, our communities, our teams, and our organizations.
This thought has challenged me as I ponder our time overseas.
When I think about a long, hot, humid day with laundry still on the line and no water for showers and attacking mosquitoes and a hungry family. When I think about my girls in boarding school and the grief that brings. When I think about poverty and needs in our country of service. When team dynamics are stressful, a conversation was misunderstood or I feel the need to defend rise up in my gut. The tensions of our days add up and overflow.
In those moments, in those circumstances, can gentleness be seen in me? Is it evident to those around me?
In this fruit of gentleness, Scripture doesn’t stop at just letting it be evident. 1 Timothy 6:11 goes further, telling us to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”
Timothy challenges us to actually pursue being gentle. Go after it. Make it happen. Even on stressful, overseas days.
Clothe ourselves with gentleness.
Colossians 3:12 urges us to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Every day. Clothe ourselves in gentleness that can be seen by those around us in all situations wherever we are in the world.
So Jesus can be seen in us. That he can be made known through the real fruit of our days.
But, wait a second. Let’s be honest. This very simple post is truly not so simple.
Gentleness at all times in our lives overseas? Is that even possible?
I’m wrestling with this. What does it look like to clothe myself in gentleness on a day to day basis in West Africa? Why is it so easy to forget this simple goal of gentleness? Along with all the Fruits of the Spirit, am I purposefully, intentionally making sure that they are evident in me?
To be completely transparent, I’ve always seen gentleness as one of the “easy” fruits. I’m a gentle person, right?
Then, I experienced 85% humidity, dust on the kitchen counters, cockroaches crawling up the bathroom wall, mango worms and feeling incompetent just trying to buy groceries.
I’m learning to go one day at a time. I’m learning grace and mercy. I’m learning a new level of intentionality and self-awareness. I’m learning to lean deep into my Savior and the help he offers me.
I’m thankful for new mornings and fresh starts, for Sabbath days and vacation weekends.
I’m trusting the process of sanctification and growth.
This picture of gentleness isn’t a mirage that will go poof with the first challenge.
It is a picture of God’s grace at work in us moment by moment that can slowly extend out to those around us as we grow, learn, walk and trust.
Where are you in the journey of gentleness? How do you clothe yourself in gentleness? How has this changed or become more challenging since living overseas?
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