My niece Sage and her two kiddos Cash (2) and Willow (4).
A beautiful and gentle mama.
The Wednesday Word Devotional for July 19, 2023.
“Gentleness” by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 GENTLENESS and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
As we work our way through the Fruit of the Spirit, this week we come to gentleness. When I first started thinking about gentleness, some people immediately came to my mind: Jan Kluever — a dear one from church who is known for giving out glass angels and crosses. My son Lewie, whose large stature can be intimidating to those who don’t know him but is a gentle human who speaks and listens with compassion. My late grandmother, Florence. A farmer’s wife, she was constantly caring for others — feeding the farm hands, keeping up the house, tending to the garden, and always finding time to scoop up one of the grandchildren and tell us stories about Jesus.
But this biblical gentleness has a little different meaning. Biblical gentleness isn’t about being quiet or soft-spoken. It has nothing to do with being weak or strong, it is about having self-control in the ways in which we use our power or authority.
My kids are raised, but back when I was in the trenches of this parenthood thing, there were basically four styles of parenting: authoritative, neglectful, permissive, and authoritarian. For the most part, I was an authoritative parent. I received criticism from my mother-in-law and father-in-law because I often took the time to explain why my kids could or could not do something. In their day, “because I said so” was a pretty standard answer. I tried to be nurturing and supportive of my kids, but both of my sons will tell you that when I flashed “the mom look,” they knew not to push the envelope any further!
Now I have the pleasure of watching my niece raise her two young children. I was commenting to her about the patience that she has when one of them is having a meltdown or a tantrum. I love the way she talks to them and validates their feelings, even if they are screaming at the top of their lungs! She’s the mom, so she has the ultimate power and authority. What she says goes. But she doesn’t yield her power or muscle them into compliance. She loves them and encourages them. And, most of all, she models for them a gentler way to communicate.
After she told me about gentle parenting, I did a little research and learned that there are four basic elements to it — empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries. It’s about teaching life lessons in ways that they are able to understand at their stage of development. Sounds a whole lot like the way Jesus taught us, right?
The Bible talks about this empathy in Ephesians 4:32 where it says: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
And we read about respecting one another in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Just like we tell our kids that we were once kids too, Jesus was once on this earth and faced the same temptations that we did. Jesus recognized and understood that in Matthew 19:26 where he said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus also understood our need for boundaries. He taught us to set boundaries for ourselves by modeling this when he would take time away from the crowd to be alone with God. There was always someone who wanted his time and attention (anyone who has ever tried to go to the bathroom with a toddler in the home understands this well) but Jesus showed us that it’s okay to set limits.
On Sunday, I’ll be heading to camp where all of the staff will be teaching the children about the Fruit of the Spirit. So, this reminder of what it means to have this spirit of gentleness is coming at just the right time for me. Perhaps this is a good time for some of you too. Parents whose kids are STILL on summer break, bosses whose employees aren’t quite living up to your expectations, coaches, teachers, directors, leaders. If not, stay tuned next week as we finish off the fruit of the spirit with self-control (wink) (smile) (chuckle).
We pray that gentleness will be felt by all we come into contact this week, especially those for whom we are in a position of power. Let our words be words of grace and our actions come from a place of humility. Help us to show our strength through meekness, just as you have taught us.