When I think of quiet and gentle spirits, I admit that Sarah isn’t the first one who comes to mind (1 Peter 3), though she certainly must fit the bill. I think of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes. Or “Mealy-mouthed Melly,” as Scarlett O’Hara referred to her. To Scarlett, as passionate and brash as her name, Melanie was a wuss. Melanie also married Scarlett’s crush, so that didn’t help the situation between them any. But you’d never know there was even an iota of tension between the two women by the way Melanie behaved.
Melanie exemplified thoughtfulness, generosity, and gracefulness. She always managed to put the best construction on everyone’s actions — especially when it came to Scarlett. Scarlett was moody, stubborn, outspoken, passionate, manipulative. And stunning. She had the smallest waist, prettiest dresses, perfect pout, and she knew how to work it all to get nearly anything she wanted.
Gentle and quiet are definitely not words that anyone (including me!) would normally use to describe my spirit. Hard and outspoken would be more like it. I guess that makes me more Scarlett than Melanie. (Just don’t look at my waist!)
But I figure I’ve got good reason to be that way. (Cue the flow of excuses. I’ve suffered. I’m a double-parent, I’m always on duty. If I don’t do something, it doesn’t get done. I don’t know what a vacation is. And don’t even get me started on my relationships. My health literally changes with the weather.)
Gentle and quiet are great, but they don’t pay my bills.
And yet, buried away, that person is still there. Hidden actually. Or, in my case, buried under piles of self-pity, fear, and overbearing pride. I don’t want to be that way. I beat myself up whenever I hear that someone is afraid of me. I feel the nastiness welling up and still just can’t seem to stop the hurtful words from coming out. I can’t even manage to be gentle and quiet with myself, much less with the people stuck in range of my ever-swirling anger vortex.
Yeah, yeah. I’m the Father’s beautiful, beloved, precious child. My baptism means something to me, for a few seconds anyway. At least until everyday (read: fallen) life gets in the way. When we get a little stressed out and things aren’t going the way we want them to, we go dredging up our own sinful images from the muck. Gentle and quiet? No, what we really need is tough and forceful. Or maybe downright selfish and catty will be more expedient today.
You know what the problem is with being gentle and quiet in the face of this life’s troubles? It only happens by faith. You can’t fake a quiet and gentle spirit. Only the Spirit gives that to you. Sure, you can bite your tongue and retract your claws. You can force yourself (or be forced) into outward quietness and submission. You can only be as quiet and gentle as you are faithful. And you can only have as much faith as you have Jesus.
We get so distracted by the worries of the day that we even forget that we have a Jesus. And it’s not even that Jesus was gentle and quiet in the face of trials so we should follow His example and be that way too too. It’s so much better than that. We have a Jesus who is our guarantee, our promise that the Lord only has good gifts for us. Our baptism reminds us that we don’t have to storm ahead, take charge, and manipulate situations to make life tolerable. Christ died to save us from an eternity of worrying about ourselves. He was not just gentle and quiet, He was gentle for us. He was quiet for us.
Take a moment and step away from whatever has you stressed-out and worried today. Make the sign of the cross and remember that you are baptized. You have a Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)