When you hear the word “gentleness,” what comes to mind? I think of a parent; lovingly and gently holding his or her sleeping child; carefully considerate of the delicate position they are in; not wanting to disturb their slumber. I think of the layers upon layers of tissue and newspaper that my mother wrapped around her precious antique decanter set. The glass was old and frail and had belonged to her mother, so each layer was wrapped gently around to ensure that they lasted yet another generation. She took care to protect its frailty. I think of the comfort that my best friend gave me when I suffered a great loss. How she sat with me, talking quietly and listening; that alone provided me with great peace. Gentleness is great care, great devotion, and great quiet when a situation is on the edge of comfort. Gentleness is most valuable when it protects something that is at risk of breaking or being destroyed.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Jesus was the ultimate model of gentleness. When faced with human shame, human suffering, human mourning, He handled each case with gentleness. When He met the woman at the well, He confronted her with His knowledge of the truth of her sinful situation, yet she wasn’t condemned or humiliated; she was shown grace and mercy (John 4:1-42). Upon witnessing the grief of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother, Lazarus, Jesus wept in sadness. He knew the work that He would do for them; yet their mourning overwhelmed His gentle spirit, and He began to grieve for their sadness (John 11:1-44). When a leprous man came to Him, recognizing Him as the Messiah, he asked to be healed; and Jesus, recognizing his suffering exclaimed, “I AM willing!” and healed him. Jesus could not stand to see even the diseased and outcast in His society suffer. His gentleness touched all who came in contact with Him.
What made Jesus so approachable? It wasn’t His miracles. Although they drew a crowd, I imagine they would have made Him seem even more unapproachable than a regular man. His greatness came not in the fact that He was great, but in the fact that He was kind, and gentle, and humble, despite who He was. Gentleness is tenderness and care in the presence of fragile things. Gentleness is a soft and quiet response in the face of chaos and anger. Gentleness is protective over that which is weaker around it.
Offence builds walls, but gentleness wears them down. We need to be a safe refuge for those around us, not a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Our spouses, children, and friends should be able to rely on us to be gentle. This means protecting their pain, building up their strengths, and providing comfort and peacefulness. You cannot be a safe place if you explode in anger every time someone makes mistakes. You cannot be a safe place if you are frantic and full of anxiety every moment of the day. You cannot be a safe place if you are fearful, because your worry and doubt will bleed over to others. Gentleness is a fruit of the spirit that comes from abiding in Christ. When we are immersed in Him, we allow His fruit to be grow through us.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4
When you pray, do not ask for gentleness, but call on Jesus to bear the fruit of gentleness in your life. He does the work, you are only the branch of the vine. It is that simple, when you realize that you do not actually have to do the work, be good enough, and bear the fruit… You cannot do it on your own, it says right there in John, in Jesus’s own words… You cannot bear fruit without Him, and He is the one who bears the fruit in YOU! Believe, as He said, that you are already clean, you already have gentleness because of His Word in you. Then trust that He will bear that fruit through you, as He said that He would. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Believe it, and call on Him to do it. The end.