You know how sometimes you find yourself using a word a lot? When a word seems to describe one thing so well you find yourself applying it to other things, too?
Lately, that word for me has been “gentle.” I think it started when I was choosing a race to run my upcoming half-marathon. After four years of running half and full marathons, I hadn’t run long distance for a year. I wanted to get back into it, but I wanted a simple race that would ease me back into endurance running. I chose a “rail-to-trail” race–a race on a fairly flat path converted from an old railroad bed, a limited number of entrants, a straightforward out-and-back course. Small, flat, simple… gentle.
I found myself using the word again to describe a church I’ve been attending after making the difficult to decision to leave the church I had been part of for the past ten years. There are certainly specifics I want in a new church, but right now I just need somewhere to go and quietly worship. I just need a place without pressure to connect or commit or to even be known, a place that doesn’t push strict adherence to one brand of theology or one way of living, a place where I can leave as unassumingly as I entered. Gently.
While I find myself particularly seeking gentleness in the past few months, it’s not like it’s something new for me. Last year, I married a gentle man in a gentle wedding ceremony. In different ways at different times throughout my life, I have sought gentleness.
“Gentle” does not mean easy. Looking elsewhere after leaving the church that was an integral part of my young adult life is not easy. Running 13.1 miles is not easy. Getting married or undertaking any huge life change is not easy. But at certain times in my life–including this one–I yearn to do gently even the hard things I choose to undertake.
Seeking gentleness in some areas of life also does not mean not engaging in the parts of life that are anything but gentle. We are in a harsh time in our country and in our world. That isn’t to say it wasn’t harsh before and harsher for some than others, but–unless you are truly in denial–there’s no denying the decided turn we have taken towards instability of epic and dangerous proportions. I have and will continue to engage in that reality. Maybe that’s all the more reason why I crave gentleness in the areas it can exist.