The graphic above is Emmitt Smith, the retired football player, on the show “Dancing With the Stars.” I’ll get to that in a minute.
So, imagine yourself in the grocery store, you’re going through the produce department picking up some fruits. When you’re getting your fruits, what fruits do you buy? Well, chances are you’re like the rest of us. You get your apples, your oranges, bananas, kind of the staple products. Maybe some grapes.
But, there are fruits in the produce department that often get overlooked. I’m curious to know, how many of you on a regular basis buy figs? Fig Newtons don’t count, so let’s weed a few people out right away.
I’m guessing we’ll have a few fig buyers, but not many. How many buy dates? You know what I mean, not romantically, but when you’re in the grocery store, in the fruit section, how many of you buy the fruit called dates?
How many of you buy the fruit rhubarb? Some of you are like “Wait, isn’t rhubarb a vegetable?” No, it’s not, I thought it was too, but I did a little research this week and it turns out a 1947 US court ruled, officially, that rhubarb is a fruit. A very slow judicial year that year apparently.
So, these fruits are the forgotten fruits. The figs, the dates, the rhubarb. We don’t think much about them. We don’t go out of our way to get them. They are the forgotten fruits.
The bible talks about the fruit of the Spirit. This is fruit that grows in our lives when the Spirit of God is with us. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self control. So keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22
I would say that “gentleness” tends to be the rhubarb of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not the fruit that many of us desire, not the fruit that we think much about. We’ll pray for the other fruits, for love and joy and peace and patience, we want those in our lives. But, gentleness, it doesn’t seem as important. It doesn’t make the grocery list. We just don’t have much of an appetite for it.
For many of us, it just doesn’t sound like something we even want, right? Because, when we think of “gentleness”, we tend to think of this passive, kind of wimpy person, who gets walked on.
We would never use gentleness to describe ourselves. When you’re filling out a resume, you don’t write “gentle” on there. Nobody ever hires a gentle person. You hire a person with ambition and moxy, someone who’s driven, and motivated.
We don’t vote for politicians who are gentle. Athletes don’t win the “gentleness” award after the season is over. Well, not that’s entirely true. In the NHL, they have the Lady Byng Trophy, the most gentlemanly player, but, nobody ever cares about winning that one anyway.
Are you ever going to hire a gentle attorney? You don’t want some gentle kitty out there defending you, you want the tiger on your side. The heavy hitter. That’s who we want standing up for us. Somebody who will do whatever it takes.
Do we raise our children to be gentle? Maybe, but, gentleness doesn’t get you the nice house and the big job, does it? It’s dog eat dog out there. Get out there and fight kids.
So, gentleness tends to be something we don’t really desire. But for Jesus, “gentleness” is exactly what we need to have. Jesus modelled gentleness in so much of how he lived and the way he treated people. And when we ask the Holy Spirit to be with us, as Jesus did, when we "keep in step" with the Spirit, as Paul said, the Holy Spirit takes the reins of our power and our strength, so that gentleness can grow.
How many of you have watched the show “Dancing with the Stars”? OK, I admit that I’ve never seen the show. But they showed some clips of it on Sportsdesk, which I do watch. They showed it on Sportdesk because the stars on the show were Emmitt Smith, a football player, and Evander Holyfield, a boxer.
Big burly athletes come on to this show with absolutely no kind of dancing background. They’re trained for power. Hands like bear paws, tree trunks for thighs.
And, at the beginning it’s very awkward for them. They were clumsy as they tried to learn these steps. And they have to pay special attention. They talk to themselves, trying to remember where their feet are supposed to go, and what they’re supposed to do.
But after days and days of practicing this one dance, like, six hours a day for many of them, their feet just start to know what to do. There’s a muscle memory that kicks in, and all the steps that were very awkward at first, soon, with enough repetition, and enough intentionality, become much more natural.
This is how it is in keeping in step with the Spirit. When you become a Christian, things don’t just change overnight. Instead, you keep in step with the Spirit. That takes some work, some stick-to-it-iveness. But over time, walking with the Spirit, these things like gentleness become the new natural.
The invitation is here. From Jesus. The next step is yours.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29