“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
In the early morning hours, I laid in bed, tears streaming into my ears. I was listening again to his wails through the intercom on my nightstand. I tried to muster the energy to rise for the baby again, after waking countless times that night. Unable to dig deeply one more time, I fell limp and wept. As my husband held me in bed, I cried out to God to rock the baby to sleep, himself. My mama’s heart ached. Deeply craving sleep, I felt my body flushed hot with shame, feeling selfish that I could put my needs before my child’s. I prayed in loud sobs for a long time. By the time I had finished, the intercom fell silent. The baby had finally fallen asleep, without me.
What felt like minutes later, my husband’s alarm rang. I peeked at him buttoning his shirt beside the clock. It read 5:30 a.m.
“How could the day already be starting?” I thought breathlessly, “How could I do anything after that night?” As if to answer my thoughts, he looked over at me and said something surprising:
“Be gentle to yourself today.”
I blinked at him.
“I mean it,” he said, “You need to be extra gentle to yourself today.”
Who says that? Where, in the “do-more, be-more” media feeds of our lives, do we as women hear the message to be gentle?
Yet, in the Bible, this is just what Paul was urging the church in Philippi to do. He called the believers there to a lifestyle of gentleness so ubiquitous, that it became their reputation in the bustling trade city.
How in the world was I to be gentle to myself after a night like that? How could I parent three small children, while running on fumes?
How do we develop a reputation of gentleness, when the only thing left in our hearts are angry un-met needs and expectations? How do we act gently when feeling weak, sick, tired, or grieved?
Remember Paul’s words: “The Lord is near.”
I must receive it first, from the Lord, in order to show it to others, or myself. Being gentle to ourselves is a product from bringing our hearts to Jesus, and feeling him treating us gently.
We are not alone in our weakness. When we are in His presence, we can relax, and be gentle to ourselves.
This was the door to unlock my day. I set out to be gentle with myself: lowering my expectations, and letting myself off of as many hooks as possible. It was wonderful. My attitude even softened toward my little kids, and the constant care they need. We all breathed a bit easier that day.
We as moms may feel selfish when we are gentle to ourselves, saying ‘no” to the constant demands of the world, in order to protect our hearts. But this gentleness spills over into our loved-ones. As we draw near to Jesus, it will become evident to all that we serve a gentle God, who faithfully draws near to our tired, empty hearts – for His glory – and fills us with His life.