… and thank God.
I remember in college our old youth pastor sat a group of us down at Starbucks, and we played one of his encouragement games. One person would be in the “hot seat,” and each of us would go around and share one positive thing about the person. We loved him so we obliged, and out of the all the things people said about me, the only one I remember is, “She got nicer.”
Gentleness was not my strong suit in my younger years. I understood the other fruit of the Spirit. Love- of COURSE. Joy- DUH. Peace and goodness- YES. Patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control- not in my repertoire, but OBVIOUS. But gentleness? It seemed like an option. Like something you were either born with or not, and clearly I wasn’t born with it. I wanted to be tough and hardcore, and there wasn’t any room for gentleness with that persona.
Fast forward to my seminary years. My first year, I was paired up with Heidy- an artist and the complete opposite of me. She was sweet, sensitive, honest, and so so gentle. She was hurt by my rough edges more often than I knew, and yet she continued to stay close. She loved me, encouraged me, forgave me- over and over again.
My second year I lived with Christine- deeply reflective, loving, and like Heidy, sensitive and honest. She loved me enough to confront me when I hurt her, she was willing to walk together toward reconciliation, and I’ve been the recipient of her grace and love more times than I can count.
They were the chisel and the sandpaper of sanctification I needed to soften my sharp angles, and they deserve a standing ovation.
The other day someone thanked me for rebuking them with gentleness, and I couldn’t help but think of the three of us- Heidy, Christine, and my old self. It wasn’t much fun being disciplined to be gentle, and I’m sure it was worse for them than it was for me. But it was only because of those going-against-the-grain times that I’m able to do anything with gentleness, that I’m seeing how Jesus was strong and kind, hardcore and gentle, and that I’m learning to embrace the pain of discipline because “it pays off handsomely.”
Thank God I’m not who I used to be. Thank God for time and community to shape us, hone us, and mature us so we don’t stay the same.