Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There's Room at the Table for You (Gentleness, a Fruit of the Spirit)

Gentleness almost seems like a bad word in times like these. Gentleness is almost synonymous with weakness. Not to beat up the media, but we are constantly bombarded with images and situations that call for us to think of ourselves first. Talk shows are especially bad about telling us that if we don't look out for ourselves, no one else will. We can't love anyone unless we love ourselves, and the beat goes on. . .

Putting on this tough exterior certainly has its perks. When we are determined to get ours, what's "due" to us, we often do come out ahead--at least in a worldly sort of way that is. With the publication of my first novel out, it's truly been a journey rubbing shoulders with other authors. Many are great, but some are unbelievable. Book signings are sometimes not the joyous occasions I had imagined. It's especially grueling when someone doesn't want to share the table or jockeys like they're life depends on it to sell their book to potential book buyers. What's been even more alarming is the fierce competition that is rampant with Christian authors.

Sure, I understand some of the business aspects of book selling. Let's face it, if you don't sell the book, your prospects for having another one published can be grim. Also, there's such a financial investment at stake. Yet, I am deeply disturbed when there is no difference between how the world behaves and Christians behave.

When we are confident that the Lord has given us a gift and we are truly operating in our calling, responding with gentleness and kindness isn't a struggle. We're not phony or competitive; we rest in knowing that there is room for all of us at the table--no matter what we're doing. Gentleness (or kindness) is a fruit of the Spirit that calls us to subdue our flesh. Our personal wants can't be momentarily suspended so that we can consider one another. Gentleness causes us to humbly submit instead of rise up in pride.

I have also found that gentleness is a powerful witnessing tool, especially when a situations could be one where anger and harshness would seem to be just. When I was very young, I remember sneaking into my dad's coin jar and stealing change. Caught red-handed with coins in hand, I cried as he asked me why I wanted the money. As I told him, he listened and kindly gave me the money, explaining that all I had to do was ask. This is imprinted in my memory because I deserved punishment, yet my dad had mercy on me and showered me with gentleness. It was illogical in my young mind, but I did think "Wow, my dad must really love me."

The Lord is merciful and gracious to us just like that. He sent his son, an innocent and perfect sacrifice, to die for us and pardon our sons. Remembering this can make it easier for us as we strive to be more like Him every day.

Finally, Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." When we want to strike out, let's all try a dose of kindness and gentleness.

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