Look Who’s Here!

 

Blooming by my front door this morning.

IMG_1508 crocus in front of house

 

 

Melting ice down at the creek yesterday.

 

IMG_1397 MELTING ICE ch

 

The same gentle warm sun that streams through my window has been gently coaxing changes in the neighbourhood. Gentle awakenings. Yes.

I’ve noticed that gentleness is on the list of the fruit of the Spirit and brutal candor is not. Why is that, I wonder. What’s with this frying pan to the face school of prophecy? If Holy Spirit takes the time to melt our hearts with patience and kindness and speaks truth to us in a gentle way that melts away lies we have believed and replaces them with courage to take the risk of blooming, shouldn’t we do the same for each other? Gentleness is not weakness; it is patient power under control.

I read this quote by Stephen Crosby the other day. “If people are going to reject the gospel we carry, let them reject it because they are rejecting a love they cannot process or handle at the moment, not because of an idiot with a Bible and the interpersonal skills of Attila the Hun.

Yes, there are times, when for the sake of protecting the vulnerable we need to be more blunt and even aggressive, and there are folks for whom subtlety is a faintly detected jet trail flying miles overhead. Jesus spoke gently in powerful parables, but sometimes he confronted religious pseudo-experts directly and plainly, but only when they blocked the path for everyone else. Allowances need to be made, but if smacking people upside the head with words – however true – becomes your go-to means of communication (because you “don’t have time to say this nicely”) and fact-delivery continually trumps loving encouragement, don’t be surprised when your garden of friends in May looks more like a frozen creek in January.

Just sayin’.

(File under: Things I have learned the hard way.)

Aggressive Gentleness

Water lilies
Water lilies

 

Gentleness is not apathy but is an aggressive expression of how we view people. We see people as so valuable that we deal with them in gentleness, fearing the slightest damage to one for whom Christ died. To be apathetic is to turn people over to mean and destructive elements, to truly love people cause for us to be aggressively gentle.”― Gayle D. Erwin, Spirit Style

I have told my kids to avoid burning bridges. It’s amazing the way people turn up in our lives thirty years after we were sorely tempted to tell them what we thought of them and their stupid job the day we were told to clean out our desk. What is truly amazing is that people can change and thirty years later enemies can become friends.

I am so grateful that the Lord put a guard over my mouth sometimes (although, alas, sometimes I shouted over it.) I’m so glad gentle folk did not curse me when I was so angry and hurt by some folks in the church and walked away in disappointment. (Discussions about which denomination would be the greatest in heaven were as tiresome to me as the disciples squabbles were to Jesus.)  I am so thankful the gentle ones not only talked about grace; they practised it.

“Speaking the truth in love” is less about criticizing that part of people’s lives which is dead or rotten and more about pointing out the part of them that God sees – the part of them which, like the water lilies I saw in this pond with its dead wood, yearns to live and grow and blossom.

It also struck me this week, whilst reading the apostle Paul’s qualifications to write the letter to the Galatians, that God knew who Saul was going to be even when he was violently opposed to Jesus Christ and threatened his followers. God saw something in him even then and chose him in advance for a special mission. Unlike many of us would have, given the opportunity, Christ did not curse him. When Jesus spoke the truth to him it was to tell him who he really was.

Today I read another blog publicly condemning some well-known ministers. One commenter was quite willing to call them “accursed” for what he considered to be inaccurate doctrine.

There is a reason why Paul told Timothy and Titus that leaders need to be able to teach, but with gentleness. It could be that God is simply not finished with the people they are charged to serve and love. It could be that people whose understanding of God is not yet complete (and whose is?) are people in process and need, like Apollos, to be taken aside and gently and lovingly taught by someone who actually has a relationship with them, rather than be publicly executed by a stranger.

Decisions to remove those who have become toxic to the body from positions of influence can only be made by those who love deeply and are willing to lay down their lives for another in their care. Poor teaching is best routed by good teaching.

We do not need not be contentious in order to contend for the faith.

 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.  A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.  Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

The Power of Gentleness

IMG_1785 rosebuds 3 ch

You have given me the shield of your salvation,     

and your right hand supported me,     

and your gentleness made me great.

(Psalm 18:35)

He could have blasted us right out of our seats if he wanted to. Instead he sang with the most exquisitely sensitive pianissimo. He made us want to lean forward and be willing to strain to hear every note. I was privileged to hear a recital given in our small local theatre by one of the world’s greatest tenors. These guys have  powerful voices that can easily carry over a large orchestra with significant brass sections. I have heard that the easiest way to obtain tickets to hear him in Bayreuth in Europe is to inherit them, but he often does concerts in the type of small remote Canadian town he grew up in, in town halls with less than perfect acoustics and accompanied by pianos usually banged upon by reluctant nine-year old recitalists. God bless Ben Heppner for honouring his roots. Every once in a while that voice would totally fill the room and ring with the power and beauty that made him famous, but it was the still small perfectly controlled sound that impressed me. Such musicality. Power under control. Gentleness.

Somehow gentleness becomes greatness only when it is connected to power.

I once watched a young singer walk away from a music competition looking very discouraged. I knew he didn’t understand the reason for the judge’s harsh critique so I spoke to him, hoping to encourage his pursuit of developing a considerable talent. (Alas, I have witnessed far too many judges who seem to feel their role is to cut down the field to the very best of the very best, rather than encourage all young musicians to enjoy music and to aspire to be the best they can be.) The baritone had a powerful voice that could shake the rafters, and like many young singers who discover they have a range and a power that is the envy of the less endowed, he was tempted to sing “blastissimo” to show it off, even though the song he sang was about wooing a young maiden.

After chatting and telling him I admired his voice he asked me what I thought of his performance. I told him I was indeed impressed with his obvious strength and then winked and said, “A woman may be very impressed by your muscles, but you will win her  heart more thoroughly with gentleness and self-control than with your fists. ”

I guess I spoke his language, because he then went on to give me entirely too much information about his love life, which essentially can be boiled down to, “My girlfriend admires my body-builder physique and that I can protect her from any guy in the bar, but she says it is my gentleness in bed that pleases her most.”

He understood the advice instantly -and went home to work on his dynamic range. A comment about the spirit of gentleness on an earlier blog reminded me of this conversation (and set me to blushing again) but there is a strong connection between power and gentleness.

Power is task oriented and gentleness is relationship oriented. Power gets the job done, but gentleness demonstrates love and uses no more power or strength or authority than is necessary. Gentleness includes consideration of another person’s sensitivities and weaknesses as well as their strengths. A good daddy applies a different level of gentleness when cuddling his baby boy than he does play-wrestling with his four-year old or teaching his adolescent self-defence skills, but all of them require a restraint of the kind of power that would show up should an evil person threaten his child.

We all long to be protected, but we also need to know we are safe. Gentleness is not wimpiness. The juxtaposition of the symbolic language of violence in Psalm 18 gives all the more strength to the phrase, “Your gentleness has made me great.” The Creator of the universe could blast us right out of our seats with a whisper, but he knows that we are as frail as a woodland rosebud. He cradles us, provokes us, and trains us with no more power than is essential to help us develop every talent he has given us to be the people he intended us to be. He sets the example for how leaders in the church are to teach, encourage and correct, with a spirit of gentleness based on relationship -and backed by authority and power in Christ Jesus.

His gentleness makes us great.