Think now of the mule, the donkey, the goat…
Such creatures as this who bear a great load!
Such poor reputations and so misunderstood
For services provided on a regular basis
Now Jack, now Jenny the sun is well risen…
Come on! You’re well rested! Time for a new day
Let’s go! … Please?!
Hey, wake up! Ah well…
Here Sweetly. You too HeeHaw.
You can join your friends in the cow pasture.
Guard duty today. No, over here…
Ohhh! I’m your friend. Run everyone! Run!
Billy! Where are you going?
Get out of the way! Don’t eat that!
…There we go. All settled now?
All in a day’s work for my unappreciated friends
What’s that? You’re considering getting a camel?
Hey! Watch out! He’ll spit in your eye!
The car’s packed and we’re heading down the road to new adventures! …I remember my anticipation as a teen going off to college. Along with some normal anxiety, I looked forward to having my own schedule and being able to make my own decisions. I was free to strike out on my own. Free to be me… Rather a scary thought as I look back on that, but my parents and others had prepared me well and my faith in God was real and strong. Growing and maturing is an important step in life.
Free to be. Free to make choices. Free to consider future and present actions… But isn’t it also easy during that pursuit to become too self-focused, missing out on the richness and satisfaction of reaching outward in service and in working with others? We’ve all heard the clamor of the world. “He said…” “She did…” “That’s a lie…” “You deserve…” Perhaps I am just more aware as I’ve gotten older, but selfishness often seems to be encouraged. Talking at once seems to be the norm. People loudly espouse their agenda, poisonous words tearing others apart, hurting and demeaning everyone.
As I discovered during my college days, along with freedom comes new responsibility, greater accountability and consideration of others. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” * In our freedom, I pray that we will remember the element of respect, building up and caring for others, rather than tearing down and destroying.
Of encouragement to me is the observation that when we face common challenges or tragedies, we begin to gain a sense of our shared humanity. When we take time to notice and acknowledge people as important and valued, then differing perspectives, needs, or goals no longer seem as significant. When we reconsider harsh words, there are fewer times to regret. When we choose positive actions, then growth and reconciliation are made possible. When we allow change in our own thinking and perspective, we discover room for compassion.
*1 Corinthians 10:23
“Ouch! That hurt!” …Whether a scrapped knee or elbow or a stumped toe, childhood memories for this tomboy keeping up with three brothers included the inevitable mishaps. My mother’s gentle, but no nonsense, ministrations with band-aide or ice packs taught me of compassion and strength. Care and concern was mixed with encouragement that all would be well.
Jesus modeled this gentleness and strength throughout his ministry. He reached out to heal and to provide for those who came to him. He also called them to show by their good life that their works were done with “gentleness born of wisdom.” *
Wow! That’s not so easy! We have all had our rather “unwise” moments when we’ve blurted out things without considering their consequences. “Bite your tongue,” people used to say when less than thoughtful words came out, or “I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying what I was thinking!” In listening to people, especially in news reports on television, it seems many are talking at once with little respect for others. Self-control and kindness are often disregarded… Our words and actions do not always reflect wisdom or a gentle spirit!
It can be tough to say or do things in a gentle (and more positive) manner, rather than just from a “self” focus. It seems significant that when Paul told the Galatians about the “fruit of the Spirit,” the last two fruits he listed were gentleness and self-control… We have to work at it, but the results are worth it.
One thing that helps me, is to take time to rest and de-stress as regularly as possible. It’s so much harder to respond in positive ways when I’m overly tired! Sometimes I need to remove myself from a situation or conversation, if only briefly, so I can calm down or take time to think first. We all learn what works best for us.
Gentleness? God grant me a gentle heart, so I can serve You better!