Today’s guest post comes from Tiffany’s friend, Izzie. Tiffany and Izzie met in Kentucky while they were both going to grad school at Asbury Theological Seminary. Izzie is a person whom one can always count on to think deeply, communicate honestly, and lend a helping hand. Thanks, Izzie, for sharing about this fruit of the spirit!
When Tiffany asked if I’d be interested in a guest blog this summer for the series on the Fruit of the Spirit, I was excited yet quite hesitant. She asked me to write something for adults, kids, and include an activity. What caused me to hesitate was the “kids” part. I must confess: I don’t have any. I have a few friends’ kids that I LOVE but please don’t give me a baby who still has a wobbly neck! I just don’t know what to do with them other than stiffly and awkwardly hold them until they cry or poop (then I hand them back over). My husband and I will celebrate our first anniversary in just a few weeks so we aren’t quite in a hurry to have kids yet. So please bear with me as I attempt to be kid-friendly. I feel like I’m on the cooking show Chopped and the kid aspect a mystery ingredient I do not know what to do with.
The Fruits All Work Together
I was told about these Fruits of the Spirit back in high school. Immediately I pictured a wooden bowl full of fruit: apples and bananas and oranges and grapes. Thankfully, my youth pastor set me straight pretty early on and planted the image of a bunch of grapes. Joy, peace, love, self-control, gentleness- all of them grow together. They may not all grow at the same speed and present themselves equally, but they aren’t completely separate. You know how on a bunch of grapes there are always a few really tiny ones? Well, on my bunch, one of those is gentleness.
Being Gentle While Being a Leader- Possible?
That same youth pastor also introduced me to Gary Smalley’s personality type quiz. I’m pretty much 100% lion (the other possibilities: golden retriever, otter, and beaver). Lions are generally NOT known for their gentleness. The Bible gives us images of a lamb to contrast the lion-ness of God. It is so much easier for me to relate to all those not-so-gentle images of God in the Word: the lion of Judah, a burning shrub, a pillar of fire/cloud leading the Israelites, the Noah situation, the way God dealt with Sodom & Gomorrah, tongues of fire at Pentecost, Jesus throwing over those money-changers’ tables, etc. Since I know and understand God’s power and might better than the gentleness, it becomes easy for me to hide that weird mystery ingredient (another Chopped reference) in with the rest of things and basically avoid the reality of its existence. It is often an after-thought and gets thrown on as a garnish. Because it’s not natural for me to work with it, I view it as less important and I witness my mouth and actions not being so gentle a lot of the time. Not good.
The world encourages leaders to be lions. Expectations are that leaders lead with authority and power. Yet I cannot ignore the way Jesus taught, led, and loved. There is PURE gentleness that just pours from the character of Christ. Although I’m not as familiar with my own gentleness, I am one of the first to recognize gentle moments. Why is that? More often than not, the missing element is the first to be identified. If I gave you a ham sandwich without any ham, I’m pretty sure the first thing you would notice is that there’s NO HAM!
For my mind, mouth, and actions to align with what I know of Jesus, I am required to take captive those less-gentle moments while having a heightened awareness of when those gentle times do occur. For me, this is directly related to patience and then I can see that being connected to love. As a bunch of grapes, each is connected! My lack of gentleness is usually because I’m being impatient. My tiny patience grape is often because the words forming to respond to the situation are not out of love, which speeds the process of shriveling up my joy grape and the rest since self-control and peace are clearly playing roles in my behavior. As I contemplate where this unhealthy Fruit started going bad, I can see how I am not as deeply rooted in Christ as I’d like to or should be. Yikes! My grapes aren’t growing because I let myself drift from THE source of life!
In the end, this does not mean I need to stop being a lion. It has been affirmed enough to me that God created the lion that I am, but it is clear that something is missing.
You’ve probably seen the Youtube video I’m about to share. But no matter how much you dislike Whitney Houston’s music or the movie the Body Guard, the use of “I Will Always Love You” for this video will likely assist in getting the waterworks going. I won’t say more until after you watch…the real video starts at about 43 seconds and is just a few minutes long.
Based on this video, I am pretty sure that lion hugs are the most terrifying and wonderful thing ever. This is like a real-life Narnia moment! In referring to Aslan, he isn’t safe but he’s good. God is wild and powerful and mighty and in His goodness He takes a gentle hold of us.
Christian has grown up a bit since the guys released him the previous year. He is now the leader of a pride which says to me that he must have gained some kind of authority and became a strong leader even though he was not raised in the wild. He adapted quickly. He is obviously embracing these two guys, rubbing his head on their faces and being quite gentle. I’d like to think I’m a bit smarter than a lion but how is it that I forget to be gentle after just a few minutes of interacting with someone whereas this lion, after a whole year of living a completely different kind of life, can remember to still be gentle with these two humans?! And yes, even after seeing this video several times, I still cry uncontrollably each time.
I know in my mind that gentleness is an important reflection of whether Christ really has authority over my life. It takes me seeing the importance of that Fruit and experiencing the gentleness of God to continue to desire the growth of that Fruit to be reflected in my life.
To address gentleness, one idea would be to go through the story of Elijah conversing with the Lord in 1 Kings 19:9-13. After talking through the passage, plan a little skit and act out the scenes with the kids. Be creative! I imagine a young child portraying Elijah as the parent is the earthquake and fire and whisper and all that. If there are multiple kids involved, they could be those elements while the parent is Elijah. Older kids could help write the play while the parent could just plan it out if the kids are really young. Then, have another conversation about what happened in the play in the context of gentleness. God showed Himself to Elijah in a gentle whisper, not the powerful earthquake or mighty fire.
We can be Christian the lion; completely a lion with gentleness that only comes from Love (1 John 4:19).