Evident to all.

I once lived with a girl who had a tattoo on her arm.

To be honest, that summer, I lived with a lot of people (51, if we’re counting), many of which had tattoos on their arms. Crosses, quotes, Hebrew, Timshel, flags, geographical coordinates, flowers, feathers. If you’re picturing a house full of peace loving, flannel wearing, nose-pierced millennials – bullseye.

But it was Andrea’s tattoo always struck me the most:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

It took me that whole summer of front step chats and coffee dates with Andrea to figure out what those words really meant. She really lived those words out and she made them true. She was gentle, loving, patient, and unfailingly kind to all. Nothing could shake the peace and the love that she carried.

And just when I thought I had a grasp on the message, I moved out, and forgot about that forever stamp on that friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in the three years since.

Last week, after a particularly trying few days of job interviews, bittersweet goodbyes, late nights, planning a cross-country move (even more stressful than it sounds), and impending deadlines – I found myself a bit ruffled and frazzled. And there was no better display of my mess then when I got into a little spat with my husband over something so ridiculous and puny that I’m embarrassed to remember that I went there.  I was that caffeinated and wonky girl last week. Frazzled, ruffled, messy, harsh.

And for the first time in three years, that forever stamp came back to me. It interrupted me while I was sitting in traffic and feeling the weight and the fear of so many things that I shouldn’t have let settle so deeply into my heart:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Remembering those words kindled some ugly self-reflection.

When I’m under pressure, do I live and love with gentleness?

Or do I let myself be consumed by stress, fear, anxiety – and react harshly?

What does the way that I live and love say about God?

Does the way that I treat others show God’s love, or does it just show my fear?

(Based on the fact that I blew up at my sweet husband who had done nothing wrong last week – I’ll let you guess what my answers were. Insert ashamed emoji here.)

I’ve never been great at hiding my emotions. When I’m under stress, I wear them on my sleeve and my face and in my interactions with those I love most, and I hate it. Living in such a way that I can have evident gentleness will be a challenge, but it’s one worth striving for. It’s a daily intention. It will take years and years of refining, of holding my tongue, of choosing a better way, of speaking a kinder response. It will take loving when I want to fight, and patience when I want to know all of the answers.

But, it’s my prayer.To live gently. To trust boldly. To love better. To live in such a way that shows others that God is working in me, working in you, and so beautifully in control.

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