Devotional 4/3/2020- Gentleness

From fifth grade until I graduated high school, I played basketball.  I loved playing.  I loved the friendships and team work.  I loved playing games.  I even loved practice.  However, I was not a star player.  I often started but that was more about lack of skill within our small school than my actual skill level.  But what I lacked in natural talent, I made up for with passion.  I was the player who left it all on the court.  I was driven and competitive.  Which was not always a great thing.  If you had the ball and were on the other team, I wanted the ball and I would do my best to get it.  Which often meant taking it by force.  I was a very physical player.  All the refs in our district knew my number by heart, and one year I fouled out of every single game.  The crazy part was that I tried really hard not to foul, but my natural competitive instinct would come out and I would pounce like a lioness on a kill (lovely picture of your pastor isn't it?).   In 5-8th grades, my nickname was Elbows.  In 9th-12th grade, it was The Terminator.  In one of my classes, a classmate said basketball is not a contact sport.  The teacher replied if you believe that you have never seen Beth play.  

All this to say, gentleness is not something that comes naturally to me in the sport's world. Or in some other parts of my life.  My brothers, Felix:, and my parents who know me better than anyone would not use gentle as a descriptor for me if you asked them to make a list of a 100 words that described me. However, this is not to say its lack of value, but rather that this is a fruit of the Spirit that does not come naturally to me. 

And certainly there are times when people need a nudge that is more firm that gentle.  But we would be very wrong if we overlooked the graces of this fruit of the Spirit.  Because honestly we live in a pretty rough and tumble world.  This world can be harsh, hard and even cruel.  And sometimes people need to know not firmness but gentleness from us and from God. 

God can be immensely gentle with us.  This is not a lack of strength.  In fact, I think gentleness takes an inner strength far greater than rigidity or harshness.  To be gentle is to be kind and tender in a way that only the strong can do.  And throughout our lives, I believe that God is very gentle with us.  Comforting us when we need.  Holding us up when we are falling apart.  Simply being present in certain times when we just need to know we are not alone.  God is gentle with us and we are called to be gentle with others and ourselves! 

In John 11, we follow the death of Lazarus a friend of Jesus who dies.  Jesus travels to his family but seems to linger on the way, not coming until Lazarus was already in the tomb for days.  And Jesus raises him from the dead, a show of his power and strength.  But before he does that, he weeps with the friends and family of Lazarus.  Now why would he do that if he knew what was going to happen?  Why not say 'buck up, Lazarus is going to get up?" I think it is because what they needed first was some gentleness.  They needed to see the tenderness and love of Jesus.  They needed to be comforted before they could be awed.  They needed gentleness before they could see the miracles of Jesus. 

I think there are many people in our world right now who need gentleness.  They need to be comforted, they need to see tender care and they need this before they can truly see the miracles and power of Jesus and through him the body of Christ.  I believe one way we show that is through our food pantry- we offer care without strings so that people may see God's love of them and our love of neighbor.  However, I think that each of us is called to offer gentleness even if it is not a naturally occurring fruit in us.  People need us to hear their problems, not just fix them.  People need to be loved on where they are, not just called to repent.  People need gentleness so that they can begin to accept that God is also gentle, not a vindictive judgmental god. 

Today I invite you to read John 11.  Notice how the account of Jesus' gentleness is immediately followed by a rising plot to kill Jesus. In part, it was Jesus' gentleness- that is his tender care of people- that started the path to the cross.  Then I invite you to find a way to offer some gentleness to others, yourself or even creation.  Be strong enough to be gentle.  Be loving enough to be gentle.  Be faithful enough to be gentle. 

With care,