The Picture of Gentleness {The Grove: Fruits of the Spirit}

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.

How?

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.

Why?

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?

The Grove

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4 Comments

  1. Ruthr October 10, 2019

    This was so good to read this morning. The struggle and realities of trying to be gentle in the midst of it all is something I’ve been sitting with God with. Yesterday I had one of those work days where I felt like a spikey elephant in multiple conversations/meetings my reality was far from my self concept of a peace making, suing example of God’s love and goodness i’m often described by dear friends who I trust as having a gentleness. I raised this observation with my 13 year old recently and we both laughed (may have been after a not very gentlely executed morning routine) here’s my learning so far. I can only be gentle when I’ve handed the responsibility for things getting done and well as my dream outcomes over to God. Before then I’m simply not able to be gentle, with those around me or myself. I liked your reminder around being clothed with gentleness everyday, because I’ve realised for me this handing over to God is also a daily thing (actually sometimes I need to readjust my posture within the day too!). Do you know of resources writings around gentleness in leadership?

  2. Amy McAdams October 11, 2019

    For me it is so hard to show gentleness when I am out in subSaharan African shopping situations…… I smile but under my breath, and more to the point, in my heart, mutter things like, “by all means, I’m just a woman pushing the wheelchair of a disabled child, you sir, should feel free to hurry and try to get in the door before me and then let it slam in our faces”, or “WHY are you in my SPACE?????, it’s my turn to put my things on the check out counter, quit pushing my yogurt out of the way so that you can put your chicken feet on the counter and get in this one square foot of space along with me!!!!!”.

  3. Renee Grubb October 11, 2019

    Ever since moving to the UK where manners and courtesy is highly valued from the more direct sometimes brusque style of Germany, I have been trying to pursue gentleness. Isn’t it beautiful how wherever we may live there are cultural values that we can embrace to strengthen our fruit basket of the spirit. I have found that making sure that I have have soaked with the Lord regularly in quiet has helped me immensely in this pursuit. I realize that many are not in a season where quiet is easily found, In my busier mommy days just getting a walk outside could blow out the tensions that can decreased most of the fruit of the spirit in my life. I do both now as a grandmother. Another thing the Lord has taught me is that breathing deeply and adding more air to my words softens them as well – this is how the gentle people of England speak and I wonder if that is why it attracts us so much as Americans who often have more nasal sound? What helps you pursue gentleness practically? Thank you for your message on this. Blessings, Renée

  4. Emily October 11, 2019

    This post lines up exactly with what the Lord has been working on in my heart in recent months. Never have I been so short tempered and quick to become frustrated and overly stern or even harsh with my kids as I have been since moving to a hot, humid, developing country and living within a new culture and language and very often without running water or reliable electricity. When I try to rely on myself, my patience and gentleness runs thin very early in the day! This speaks to me so deeply: “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.”

    (P.S. – it’s actually Philippians 4:5 that says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Ephesians 4 also mentions gentleness, but in verse 2. I love both these passages!)

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