By Curtis K. Shelburne
Gentleness. What a beautiful quality.
In fact, I’ve been enjoying the studies we’ve had at church recently on what St. Paul calls the “fruits of the Spirit.” We’re just now studying “gentleness.” I even taught one class.
Yes, I seem to remember closing the discussion that morning with the observation that gentleness is great to talk about in theory, but the real test comes when somebody has just crossed us, when we’re about to boil over, when gentle words and kind thoughts are not what spring to mind. You already see what’s coming, don’t you? And you’re right — I set myself up.
Now, be gentle. The test I’m thinking of came a week or two after I’d taught. I was rusty. And I wasn’t the real teacher anyway. I was subbing. I have lots of great excuses, and I’ve got this theory about what driving cars, standing in lines, and being “protected” at airports does to our “gentleness quotient.”
Okay. I confess.
My wife and I and our youngest son — I’m speaking of the baby, the last of our little boys, fourth and final in birth order, numero cuatro, still the pink baby in our eyes even if he is pushing 200 pounds and of formidable stature — had just driven to the airport and were standing in line. Joshua was about to climb aboard a plane and fly off toward Africa. Picture in your mind days of planning, procuring passports, scheduling flights, getting shots, much miscellaneous preparation, and, most recently, packing.
Picture my wife, Mrs. Ph.D in packing, meticulously layering 69 1/2 pounds each of supplies for Josh and care packages for his two African siblings (already in Uganda) into two trunks. I’ve seen her do this. She is quite capable of spooning a reasonably-sized house into a five-cubic-foot trunk.
Picture us standing in line at the airport, watching the security folks open the trunks. Picture one guy, who evidently has read the situation and knows, perhaps from agricultural experience, that you don’t get between a mama of any variety and her young, conduct a reasonable, gentle, somewhat light inspection of one trunk, close it, and back off.
But picture this guy’s female counterpart keeping us safe from the hoards of terrorists threatening Lubbock International Airport by waving her little explosives sensor over bags of Oreo cookies and Milk Duds, pulling stuff out with reckless abandon, dumpster-diving to the bottom of the trunk she’d commandeered.
Picture Mama watching as Betsy Bureaucrat half-heartedly attempts to cram the stuff back in, crushing non-explosive Oreos and creating havoc.
Picture mama coming to a slow boil. Picture dad, who’d already quietly boiled, sensing his calm wife’s temp rising and deciding to back off so that only one parent would end up in jail.
Well, no one ended up in jail. And Josh will soon be landing in Uganda. If you’re there long enough, even crushed Oreos are precious. But did I mention that this gentleness stuff is easy — until you get crossed?
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org