Is Not Like

May 26, 2021
Tim Lien

Barring any abnormal disorders, as the average person ages she/he becomes adept at reading the room and adapting accordingly. Has there been a tragedy of someone you did not know personally? Click tongue softly, shake head gently, slightly furrow brows, utter a close-lipped, non-verbal mmmmm (low register), avoid full eye contact and wait. If the group remains subdued, your options: a) stay in a proper looping pattern of furrow and mmmmm, b) discretely remove yourself to hunt for the cheese tray, or c) follow the sounds of laughter coming from the back yard.

We know how to contextualize our external emotions. It’s respectful, caring— or so we think. We like to match the situation. There was a reason that the late-night talk shows didn’t tell jokes for a week after 9/11. Humor would have been bad form—not gentle.

But let’s be straight with each other. We have become sophisticated at play-acting our kindness. The external approximations of grief, love, gentleness are honed skills. Is that so bad? one may ask, Is it so bad to have your conduct match the situation?

It depends.

The Proverbs tell us that to meet someone with overboard cheeriness in the morning is basically received as a curse, especially before the first cuppa. (Proverbs 27:14) A little silent play-acting prevents yelling, which usually aids the start of your wonderful day staying all wonderful.

But our problems begin when we turn our thoughts to God. Perhaps, He is the very bestest play-actor of all time, we might think. Might He be very best approximation of gentleness, humility, and situation-demanding lowliness? Evar? Maybe Jesus saw that that our predicament required some good ole-fashioned eating-of-crow—pulling a temporary shift o’ humility for 33 years. He could spring us from the jail of judgment and death using the humble, sacrificial shtick, then go back to being dignified, noble, and super-awesome. Situational play-acting at its finest!

If your heart needs a jump-start, if you need a reset of time-spent-with-your-Saviour, if you need new corrective lenses for who God really is, please pick up Dane Ortland’s Gentle and Lowly. Don’t sprint through it, either. Just go until you read something that pierces your play-acting self. Then stop and chew on it.

This book has convinced me all over again (in a slow & personal, devotional way), that God IS gentle and lowly. He’s not play-acting or situationally present with forward facing gentle approximations. He didn’t play-act at humility for 33 years; He’s been infinitely lowly; He will continue to be eternally gentle.

An excerpt:

          “When the Bible speaks of the heart, whether Old Testament or New, it is not speaking of our emotional life only but of the central animating           center of all we do. It is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what we daydream about as we drift off to sleep. It is our motivation           headquarters. The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us.”

          ….

          “Lowly gentleness is not one way Jesus occasionally acts toward others. Gentleness is who he is. It is his heart.” (Matthew 11:29)

Why does that matter? If you, my friend, have ever been low, know this: the deeper your discouragement and lowliness, the more you will meet Him.

He is not like gentleness and lowliness. He IS gentleness and lowliness.

2021 The Way Church
of San Gabriel Valley