If you think about it, we’re all quite fragile.
Some of us mask the fragility with bravado. We even put on a brave face for ourselves, attempting to convince not only the world but our own hearts that we are strong, capable, able, and unafraid.
But the truth is that pseudo-confidence could be shattered by minimal adversity.
Men we’d call “good husbands” are routinely disparaged or outright rejected by women we’d call “faithful wives”. And while those labels are not misplaced, they are only a mask, a cover. The same women feel unloved and unlovable by the way the same men are toward them, whether in action or inaction.
And that is when we are trying.
Coming from a place of such fragility, it’s no wonder the way we treat one another. We fight and defend, or we hide. To the point where it seems that almost every interaction is laced with this fragile timidity, not vibrant life-giving love.
“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”1
Jesus dealt differently with the world. He sought out those of us who were most unloved, outcast, unwanted. His chosen companions were people that no one else wanted to be seen near, lest they be thought of in the same way—crushing their fragile esteem.
Jesus invites us to more, by trying less. Surrender. Let go. Stop fighting to be something, and accept that you are more loved and more “something” than you could ever be while wearing a self-made mask to look like something to everyone else.
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.2
In what we call “The Beatitudes”, Jesus revealed that the key is to surrender, rather than to fight. Look at the position of those whom he calls “blessed”: poor in spirit, meek, mourn (a sadness from some circumstance over which one has no power), hunger, pure in heart, merciful, peacemaker, persecuted… all positions of apparent weakness, not strength.
Jesus says we are blessed when we are fragile.
What if we approached one another in this way? As fragile. Special. Handle with care, because the one you’re handling is precious, priceless. Wouldn’t it be different? Wouldn’t our responses be different?
What if when we do approach gently, but we receive a defensive or otherwise offensive response, we see and respond to the fragile person across from us, rather than respond to the mask of aggression and strength we perceive?
Jesus treated gently. As Isaiah foresaw and the Gospels confirmed, he knew we were weakened reeds and flickering candles, easily crushed or snuffed out.
I am reminded that gentleness is a fruit of the spirit. From Galatians chapter five, where Paul contrasts the flesh with the spirit, and he lists for us ways of being that are signs (fruit) that the Holy Spirit is living in us and our lives are bearing his fruit. Included in that list is gentleness.
Perhaps we are not able, in our own strength, to be gentle with others. Partly because we are indeed so fragile ourselves, and partly because it is not a product of flesh and effort but a fruit of his Spirit. A position of surrender rather than strength.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul admonishes those believers to stop fighting one another, that to live by the Spirit is to live a life of servant love. To defer, to surrender, to serve, to love. This only happens when we are able to recognize that we are weak—fragile—and so are our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and everyone whom God has made.
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. 3
If and when we are able to live in Father’s gentle care, to follow Holy Spirit’s lead in every part of our lives, we may see others the way he sees us, and follow the warnings on our packaging: Handle with Care.