Gentleness is not apathy but is an aggressive expression of how we view people. We see people as so valuable that we deal with them in gentleness, fearing the slightest damage to one for whom Christ died. To be apathetic is to turn people over to mean and destructive elements, to truly love people cause for us to be aggressively gentle. – Gayle D. Erwin
When I was in second grade, I drank an entire bottle of Triaminic cold medicine. I was hopeful that if I got sick – or maybe if it looked like my cold was bad enough – my teacher, Mrs. McDowell, would let me go up to the 4th grade hallways where my mom was tutoring two boys. I missed my mom most of the time those days, a kind preparation for my soul now, I think.
Mrs. McDowell – a teacher strong enough to control a combined 2nd and 3rd grade class of overly brainy students – told me, “No.” Then, she took me in her lap – all 7 years of me – and let me cry.
Now, I have a hard time believing that a public school teacher would hold a student that way, and it’s possible that she didn’t – that I’m just mis-remembering or giving to Mrs. McDowell an action that Mom did later. But I remember feeling softly and strongly held in place, where I needed to be.
The pages are so fragile that when I stack my notes and hand the files back to the archivists, the space where I have been working is sprinkled with the fragments of letters, journals, checkbooks from 1894.
As I lift each ledger, each farm journal, each receipt written on a scrap that speaks of paper’s preciousness, I let my hands soften. My fingers rest underneath each page. If my short, sausage fingers were capable, they would lilt.
Then, I let my eyes skim down the lines, my brain already beginning to know what names to seek – Andrew Carter, Peter Homes, Unity Turner. My gaze brushes past line after line of expenses until their names step forward from shadow.
Researching the lives of enslaved people is gentle work – both in a literal way because of the documents but also in a soul way. I am looking for people, for stories – and when any of us is sought too fiercely, pursued with a machete rather than the gentle hand brushing back the shadowy weeds, we hide.
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. — James 3:13
Of late, I have not written much. I have not read much. I could list reasons of farming and working, but the truth is that I need to treat myself with gentleness here. I need to cradle my soft spirit and realize that the work of this moment is now – to tend a garden and breath my eyes over old papers. The writing will return. . . I will return to it and hold myself gently and strongly to that place.
But now, the gentleness of wisdom is to say, This work is good. Give yourself to it, Andi. It, too, is your heart song.
We all travel through times when our heart’s work needs to be flipped over to our backs as we work our hands and fingers around the tangle before us. Be encouraged. You still carry your heart’s work, and as you walk these days, you are tucking tendrils of truth and tale away for later. Be gentle with yourself now. Guilt and shame fail us every time.
Spaces in the God’s Whisper Farm Writers’ Retreat are filling up. If you are thinking of joining us for a weekend of writing, relaxation, community, and delicious food, please reserve your space now. More details and registration here – http://andilit.com/writers-retreat-at-gods-whisper-farm/ We welcome you.