" ... learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart..." (Matthew 11:29)
Recently I was privy to something rare and lovely.
We had friends over for dinner, and they brought their children. It was their son's first birthday, and we had a mini birthday party for him.
I loved the company of our friends: rich, encouraging, funny. But it was the interaction between the two men and the baby that captured and held my attention.
Mama was holding Lee in front of her on the kitchen table. His little legs were bowed and pointed toward the center facing the rest of us. All attention was on this little boy. Four adults (and all the others who found their way in or through the kitchen) were watching him.
But he was guileless.
Even with all the attention focused on him he remained innocent and unaffected.
Lee was simply delighted that he was making us happy. He would stretch out his little arms and then shake them in utter delight. Chortling and laughing in precious belly giggles. He would reach for the men at the table and crawl into their arms. He would investigate their mouths, eyes, and glasses. And he would give them enormous open-mouthed kisses.
At one point his Mama broke up a chocolate chip cookie and put the pieces in front of him. One by one the pieces disappeared into his tiny, cherub mouth. Several times he turned so he could better see who he was with, and then he would settle back against their chest. His little face was just alight with joy. He would clap for himself, and then look to see if his antics made us laugh. If they did, then he would do it again. So pleased was he, so delighted.
Interestingly enough, the men were unaware they were being watched also. They played with our little boy with unabashed enthusiasm. Silly noises and facial expressions and all. And to Lee's utter delight they would mimic him.
Both men at the table were giants (in more ways than one). And yet the gentleness and tenderness they lavished on this little boy was something to behold. I watched our little birthday boy, but I watched the men even more. His Daddy would look him right in the face and exclaim, " I love you, Lee."
Lee understood. It was quite apparent he had been told this many times before.
In Baby Lee I saw why Jesus told us to be like little children.
Guilelessness and innocence are not prevalent in our society.Instead we are taught the craft of scheming and manipulation. And our innocence is robbed or hastily given very early. Sophistication is pursued and naivete is shunned.
In the giant men I saw why Jesus said learn from him.
Gentleness and tenderness are not valuable commodities in our society. Not in women, but especially not in men. These attributes are viewed as weaknesses--hammer blows to the masculine identity. Incongruent with the definition of a man's man. These traits are not desired and certainly not cultivated or encouraged. Often they are discouraged and the slightest growth of either is quickly uprooted.
Yet, Jesus was both.
He was so often tender with those he encountered: the Widow of Nain, the woman caught in adultery, Jarius and his daughter, with the children brought to him for blessing, the demoniacs, Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala.
But Jesus did not apologize, excuse, hide or justify his behavior.
Jesus was a strong, gentle man. True gentleness and real tenderness have tensile strength.
Jesus was guileless and innocent, and he was very much a powerful man. (Think about Baby Lee. He ruled the kitchen that night.)
For many these traits seem to be oxymorons. How very sad.
The Men and the Baby were both emulating Jesus.
We should take notes.