Last month, a friend and I communicated about her tendencies toward being a pushover and my tendencies toward being, how did she put it?, “overly confident.” Indeed, I have a fairly strong personality, I can be pretty intense, and yes, I can come across as overly confident. In an email I wrote her, I said: “I come by a domineering spirit honestly – all my family members are prone to it in one way or another – and find that gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit I tend to most lack and need to pray for God to grow in me.”
And that’s the truth. I wish I were a more naturally gentle person. And I wish I were more gentle with my children in my mothering. Don’t get me wrong, I have my gentle moments, and there are lovely quiet, warming moments that my kids and I do share. Moments in which I am (as dictionary.com states) “kindly, amiable, not severe or rough.” They just aren’t as plentiful as I’d like, not by any stretch.
Two verses jump to mind when it comes to gentleness:
The first is Matthew 11:29:“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.” Note that Jesus is saying to adopt his ways here, taking his gentleness upon ourselves as our very own character trait. It’s not only that we get to benefit from his gentleness of spirit, but also that we’re supposed to become like him in it.
And the second is Paul’s question to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 4:21: “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” It’s a rhetorical questions, by the way (in case that wasn’t obvious). Who would prefer a rod of discipline if they could get someone coming in love and with a gentle spirit? That’s not to say that at times a demeanor of discipline isn’t necessary – that’s Paul’s point in the question. But if a gentle communication can work, then there’s no need for correction, or a correcting tone.
But do I have my gentle spirit ready, with proactive nurture and affection on the front burner? Am I poised to use my gentle spirit, keeping it with me in my pocket at all times so I can whip it out quickly when the need arises? Too often I don’t. And the default mode of intense, annoyed, or even abrasive comes out and spills all over my children. I hate that it does (as, I’m sure, do my children and God too), but it does. My kids deserve a gentle mom, but too often they don’t get her.
So I’m setting out this fall praying each morning for a spirit of gentleness, especially with those in my household. Yes, the days are scrappy, but my attitude doesn’t have to be. God’s in the business of changing our hearts and making us more like Him, after all, and prayer works. So I pray,”‘Let my gentleness be evident to all‘ in my household today Lord,” and “Make me ‘humble and gentle, patiently bearing in love‘ with my children, O God.” I’m in search of the gentle mom, and I want her to be me.