The presence of God can be flash and crash – thunder and lightning. It is fireworks on Mt Sinai. It is the holy smoke of glorious fire. It is the power to bend trembling knees into worship. Unveiled, it is death for mortals to see. The presence of God is all of this, and more. Even though His presence can be overwhelming, this is often the presence we expect and desire. Obvious. Undeniable. Unmistakable. But this is not the presence we usually experience. More than likely, God’s presence with us is less like a bang and more like a butterfly.
I recall taking my kids into a butterfly pavilion. It was humid, tropical and filled with fluttering wings. They skirted around us, flitting from flower to flower. The kids bounced up and down and waved their arms as landing strips. They giggled and called, but no butterflies came. So, they were shocked to see a monarch land on my shoulder. I made no sound. I held very still. My slightest breath might blow him away. He graced me with a visit for a few moments and then flew off. The kids were a bit annoyed. Why would dad get the butterfly and not them? They had yet to learn that if you want to host a butterfly, then stillness, silence and gentleness are of greater effect than calling and agitating. All children of God learn the same.
God is all around us. He fills the air. God is within us. He fills our lives.
Yet oft times we are unaware. So we wave our arms and call. We expect our whirlwind of activity and volume of voice will summon Him. But God need not be summed. He is already present, but the flapping of our soul blinds us. There is another way – the way of gentleness.
Gentle is the heart of Jesus, who calls us to learn of Him. Gentle is the Voice of God whispering to a frightened prophet. Gentle is the King, riding on a donkey towards the cross. Gentle are the people of God, bearing one another’s weaknesses. Gentle is the subdued strength of soul which invites the wounded to come for help and healing. Gentleness is the ignored fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps it’s time to re-visit this gift of the Spirit and be gentle men and gentle women in this world of bluster, flurry and noise.
Gentleness is good for our world, but it does more for my own soul. Gentleness is the pathway of perception of God’s nearness. I can release my demands and gently receive His grace for this present moment. I can halt the criticism of my own berating voice and be gentle with my spirit. I can trust in Jesus who is gentle and lowly of heart. Like a becalmed vessel, I can be at peace with stillness and catch the breeze of the Spirit. I recognize how hard that is. I realize we try to conjure God’s nearness by our efforts. But butterflies land on the gentle ones, who watch and wait. Come Lord Jesus, Come.