Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 5-7
Let your gentleness be evident to all. Looking at this verse, I feel convicted and sad. I, in my sinful nature, am not gentle. I am harsh, snappy, and sarcastic. It is by the grace of God that I am learning to speak softly, stay calm, and not to immediately spout out the first (and sometimes inappropriate) comment that pops into my head. The Bible speaks of the trouble our tongue often causes in James 3:6 “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
The language we speak can spread like a fire. Destroying not only ourselves, but those around us. When I was sick in my eating disorder, I was anything but gentle with myself. I often spoke negative words about my body. I constantly degraded myself, got angry with my inability to look the way I thought I should, and because of my lack of nourishment, I was often harsh and angry with those around me. Even as I sought to be accepted by others by engaging in my eating disorder, the fire of my tongue was burning those around me, the charred ruins took up the space between me and those I loved most.
But even more dangerous than the language of my tongue was the language spoken by my body.
Although I could find no Bible passages specifically about body language, I believe today’s verses describe how our body language can “speak” volumes. Paul tells us to be gentle. What does that mean to you? In the greek, the word means “fitting and equal” or “”gentle” in the sense of truly fair by relaxing overly strict standards in order to keep the “spirit of the law.” Of course, as someone who was anything but relaxed and who had overly strict standards, gentleness did not exist in my world. I was ruled by the laws of my eating disorder and had a ridgidity not just in my schedule, but in my demeanor. I was stiff, uncomfortable in my own skin. And here is where my body language had the most scorching power. My children, who were quite young at the time, always wanted a hug or to snuggle. To me, this was something I both loved and loathed. Of course I wanted to hug and hold my small ones, but their little hands touching my skin felt to me like they were pushing in my ‘fat’. When they ran up and hugged me and their little toddler arms wrapped around my waist, I was reminded of how much I despised my hips. Gradually, the language of my body started to rage at this experience. As they would come close, I would tighten, tense, and become very still…I might have even winced a little. Soon my oldest began to hug around me without really even touching me. He had heard my body language and responded by not wanting to touch it and be burned.
As I began to heal, I saw how the language of my body had affected my interactions with my family. Desperately wanting to feel loved, I had created a scorched distance between those that were trying to love me the most. God addresses this correlation between gentleness (or a lack thereof) and anxiety in His Word. We are to let our gentleness be evident to all, and in the very next sentence it says, “Do not be anxious.”
Anxious people cannot be gentle, but what are we to do?
…. in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
In order for me learn to be gentle, I needed to heal from my anxiety. I began to pray, in every situation- eating, exercising, clothes wearing, mirror looking, and even hugging my children. Lord, help me relax, help me to stay calm, help me to be comfortable in this moment.
And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Slowly, God granted me this peace. I began to feel calm, relaxed about food, my body, and how it felt in the arms of those I love, and who love me.
Today, snuggle time is a daily occurence, even though the kids are “getting to old” for it. I love being surprised by a bear hug from my first born or allowing my youngest to give me a back rub. I do not understand this, but I know God has guarded my heart and mind. He has replaced the negative thoughts and memories with some of the sweetest moments. You know, that reminds me of a verse that has always been close to my heart, and was a great comfort as I began to realize all that had missed, lost, or destroyed when I was struggling:
I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten. Joel 2:25