by Natalie Hanna
Holding a newborn is not an easy task. If it’s your first time the mother will likely serve you a set of instructions and special conditions, if she could, she definitely would make you sign a liability contract- but somehow, someway, just by instinct, even the clueless know you have to handle a baby with precision and care.
If I ask you to recall your childhood trauma’s, I’m sure you’ll have quite a few stories to share, but amongst them is likely a look, or a whisper from your father after a traitorous act you dared to commit in public or directly after being told against. And surely you know from your time on earth that the ability to truly comfort a broken person is a SKILL only few have mastered- I bet you’re thinking of that one person who did that for you, pretty incredible that you were able to laugh at the end of the conversation aye?
Now think back to the last time you watched a talent show, is there not always a likeable quality about someone who performs brilliantly but still doesn’t know how good they are? Or do you prefer the nuisance that may also be talented but strides it each chance they get- I thought not.
When we witness someone handle a situation which deserves anger and gnashing of teeth with due care and diligence, overcoming it without overselling it, we are impressed- be it on a minor scale such as avoiding road rage, or on a major scale such as Paralympic Champions.
The overlooked qualities underlying these overlooked situations, and the focus of my discussion today are gentleness and meekness. I know, I too was itching to write strength. Interesting that gentleness and meekness can be demonstrated in conjunction with strength when they are often stereotyped as contradictory. When visualised through situations it may be evidenced that one’s alibility to compose themselves in gentleness, amidst chaos, and to maintain grounding in success is are admirable and difficult traits which form the foundation of more recognised traits such as strength and endurance.
C.S Lewis states in his book “Mere Christianity” that “the real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see”, and I agree. I believe Jesus through His story, and through His message to us in the Bible came to clarify the things we already know to be good, but do not always recognise and adapt into our lives. And what better way to do that then to live among us, but act beyond our realm?
The king of kings and lord of lords chose to enter the world as a child – like you and me. But no, that would be a lie- that won’t cut it, our God likes a grand entrance, an entrance that would haunt generations and puzzle royalty for centuries to come.
Our God chose a manger, alongside animals and hay. What your mother, and mine would see as a story of dismay, He came to say, hey! There’s no good in display, flashy lights and a highway, for that won’t stay. Downplay, lift your eyes and pray- and that, that will never go away. And the Lord who sees in His secret place, He will reward us abundantly.
In case that wasn’t enough the vessel of his entrance, His mother and ours, St Mary was nothing but a handmaiden, a common girl with no apparent speciality or education. Our standards for high-end service would likely exclude her, but our God chose her. Likely, because she did all she could with the little she had, showing no pride or sympathy towards herself. And “henceforth, all generations shall call her blessed” (Luke 1: 48).
But our Father knew we were thick and needed more a hint, so this wasn’t his only grand entrance. At 30 years of age when Jesus began his formal mission, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. He had a bit of a reputation by this stage and it was time to stride it, so he chose his best donkey and a set of Palm leaves. I don’t know about you but when it’s my birthday, or even if I attend a party I often think of my best outfit, but our King did not want that. He wanted the poor to empathize and the rich to recognise, that impact can still be made when you minimize, the show. Instead, He let His actions shine through.
Christians can easily recall the instances when Jesus intentionally lost his temper, at the fig tree and at the temple. This is because there were so very few of them. In all instances Christ remained gentle. He was gentle dealing with the Sinner woman when there was reason not to, he was gentle in asserting knowledge when traditions were broken and He continues to be gentle with us as He was with His disciples when they misunderstood parables and could not see solutions, explaining things via other means.
Through these situations we are able to see that gentleness and meekness is not reticence, compliance or lack of strength. Jesus did not shy away from persecution, arrests or floggings. Jesus was confident, persuasive, even confrontational at times, yet gentle because he used his powers for the greater Good. The same holds for us. The gentle can be assertive, but they do not assert themselves. We can be strong and assertive, yet gentle if we leverage power not to assert self, but to promote the cause of God or the needy.
Through this, we are illuminated to the fact that true demonstration of meekness and gentleness is not a question is not how strong we are, but how we use our strength. A silent strength which does not parade itself but rather promotes Good unapologetically. And it is in my view one of the most difficult challenges one can encounter.
But through Christ’s story, and many in the Bible, we are taught how- and furthermore, we already know it. In the back of our minds and enshrined in our conscious with admiration, fragility and restoration, we appreciate it. The harder end now, is to truly balance and apply it. I speak to myself more than anyone else – Be conscious, be diligent and best of luck!