Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Learning To Be Gentle

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm back at Middle Places this week - on learning to be gentle when you're used to coming on strong...

The pastors at my church preached through Philippians this fall. It’s a particular favorite of mine and it was a treat to hear it again, to consider Paul’s instructions on community and perseverance as they relate to this season of my life.

The week before Thanksgiving, the message focused on this passage.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted those words, I’ve sat across from college students and grandmas in Bible study and reminded them not to be anxious but instead to trust God. When my family has had hard seasons, I’ve told myself to rejoice always – no matter what our circumstance. I’ve prayed desperately for peace that passes understanding, for myself, for those I love.

But somehow, as many times as I’ve read and shared and prayed and preached and quoted this passage, there’s a piece in there that I’ve just missed.

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

It’s not hard for me to figure out why I’ve skipped over it. Gentleness isn’t my strong suit. Strong is, actually, my strong suit. I’m strong and loud and clumsy, a story-teller with gifts for teaching and leadership. The idea of gentleness being what is evident about me is a stretch.

But I’ve been holding that word – gentleness. Turning it over in my head and thinking about it in my relationships. What would it look like to be more gentle?

Luckily, since I live life in proximity to actual people, I’m realizing I have a bazillion opportunities to practice gentleness everyday.

When my husband is home late from work and I’m supposed to leave for book club…

Lindsey, be gentle.

When my toddler takes a beloved ornament off the tree and smashes it in his Tonka truck…

Lindsey, be gentle.

When an old friend reads a blog post and leaves comments that are surprising and hurtful…

Lindsey, be gentle.  

This word is reminding me of who I want to be, someone who holds those around me carefully, protectively, even when it’s hard or it costs me something or they’re in the wrong. Gentleness doesn’t need the last word. In fact, the words gentleness uses give life and dignity to those around them. Gentleness always thinks of the other person first.

Not unlike Jesus, who tells us that He himself is gentle and lowly in heart. I want to take His yoke and learn from Him because I know He’ll treat me gently – and show me the way of gentleness, caring for others as He cares so well for me.

Gentleness is not weakness, it’s a choice to surrender strength in order to love those around us. Gentleness is truth-telling with kindness, it’s mercy instead of justice, it’s not keeping a record of wrongs. I’m not sure if it’s evident to all yet, but it’s becoming more evident to me. Gentleness is the Jesus way and I’m learning to walk (gently) in it.


This post originally appeared at Middle Places.