“Compassion is expressed in gentleness. When I think of the persons I know who model for me the depths of the spiritual life, I am struck by their gentleness. Their eyes communicate the residue of soitary battles with angels, the costs of caring for others, the deaths of ambition and ego, and the peace that comes from having very little left to lose in this life. They are gentle because they have learned the hard way that personal survival is not the point. Their caring is gentle because their self-aggrandizement is no longer at stake. There is nothing in it for them. Their vulnerability has ben stretched to clear-eyed sensitivity to others and truly selfless love.” From Healing of Purpose by John E. Biersdorf
The older I get the more I treasure the “gentle” people around me. They are like the softness of a cashmere blanket wrapped around us, warming us with soft caresses. I sat and soaked in that image for a moment and then went back and read the quote…not an adequate image. But isn’t that just like us? We want to the softness without the process.
Right now there’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial that left me needing a tissue the first time I saw it:
This of course reminded me of one of my favorite tidbits of literature: The Wisdom of the Skinhorse (“The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams)
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
This proces and transformation are not something that we have to hunt for and try to accomplish all willy-nilly. Someone has offered to walk us through it, to teach us, to be with us all along the way:
Are you tired? Worn our? Burned out on religion? Come to me Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show
you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I
won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
Jesus, the One we preparing to meet this holy season, the One who came as Immanuel (God to be with us), invites us to journey with him, to learn from him for he is gentle and humble of heart. Nothing much more humbling than the helplessness of a baby. Helplessness at any stage we might find ourselves.
Where does gentleness come from? From learning we don’t have all the answers, that we can’t do this on our own, and from learning to wrap our brain around how okay it is to be dependent.
We’ve already considered your IQ (imitation quotient), so now I’m wondering: how’s your GQ, your gentleness quotient?