- 18 September, 2013
- 2 Comments
by Laura Kreger
“Be gentle” sounds like a preschool lesson we should have mastered by now. You don’t bite your friends or hit your cat? Gold star. Hopefully nobody’s trying to steal your toys anymore, but lots of things can still feel threatening.
Maybe it’s critique from your supervisor. Trying to defend your faith. Your partner lying to you. Your kid screaming. That driver who clearly meant to hit you. Everyone and their mother’s mother wearing tights as pants. People aren’t following our rules, and being gentle about it sounds so… weak. Patience? Love? Self control? Snap judgments and sharp words come much more easily.
But what if gentleness takes the greatest strength?
If you’ve ever watched rock climbers, you know it’s easy to spot who’s the most skilled. It’s not so much about difficulty of the route as it is about gracefulness. Some climbers scramble to find holds at the cost of bruised knees, frantically kick at the wall trying to place their feet, or keep a white-knuckled death grip. These moves are instinctual, but they waste energy. They signify panic.
In contrast, strong climbers seem to glide across the rock face. Center of balance shifts smoothly, weight transfers seamlessly across muscles, feet are sure, breaths are even.
This isn’t easy. Climbing gracefully—gently—takes strength and skill and practice. It takes calmness, focus, and intention. Possibly above all, it requires great trust. Trust the gear will hold, trust in your belay partner, trust in your strength, trust that if you do fall, you won’t fall far.
Maybe being gentle with people also grows out of great trust. But instead of trust in our own strength or gear, it’s a confidence in God’s strength to hold us no matter what. When we start to feel uncomfortable, this security gives us the remarkable freedom to be calm, pay attention, and practice. It takes courage to let go of control, be gentle with each other’s hearts, and let ourselves be held along the way. But if the rope is always attached, we have nothing to fear. After all, the mountain is solid ground—it just moves us in a different direction.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 9:11-12
Laura Kreger spends some of her most enjoyable hours tending gardens, climbing rocks, making birthday cards, and promoting public health. She organizes the writers group at Imago and aspires to use her words wisely.