What does it mean to be gentle and humble, anyway?

Being self-centered is exhausting. I’m not sure if you can relate. Maybe not. Maybe you’re not as self-centered as I am.

When I get dressed in the morning, I worry about what others will think of the outfit I choose. When I’m out with my kids, I worry about what others will think of their behavior. When I blog, I worry about what others will think of my writing.

When I get to the end of my day, I get stressed if I was not able to do everything I wanted to do. When I go to the store, I get discontent if I am not able to buy everything I want. When I think about friendships, I get frustrated if I feel like someone hasn’t contacted me in awhile.

Me, me, me. I consume my own thoughts.

Reaching higher. Striving for more. Seeking validation. Maintaining appearances.  

Worry. Stress. Discontentment.

It all makes me tired. And it becomes a heavy burden to bear.

To those like me, Jesus makes an offer.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

First, Jesus wants to remind us that we don’t need to earn God’s grace. We don’t need to work harder, be better, or keep up happy appearances in order for God to love us. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t need to strive. We need only believe. We can rest in what has already been done.

But I believe Jesus is offering more than rest for our eternal souls. I believe He is offering rest for our daily living. An escape from the weight of our own self-centeredness.

Jesus’ “I am” statement in this verse is “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Gentle is often misunderstood. We often think it means passive. But that cannot be true if Jesus used that word to describe Himself. In other places, we see that Jesus was not afraid to rebuke and start fights when necessary.

Gentle is the Greek word “praos,” closely related to the word translated “meek” in the Sermon on the Mount. This idea of gentleness or meekness has to do with our attitude towards God. It means we accept what God does without resisting. We trust that God is good. We rely on God’s strength and not our own.

Humility is also often misunderstood. Many think of humility as meaning we don’t think well of ourselves. But that cannot be true if Jesus used this word to describe Himself. In other places, we see Jesus being confident in His identity, and confident in the role His Father called Him to play.

C.S. Lewis gives a great definition of humility,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

Jesus says, I am gentle and humble. Learn from Me.

Learn to trust what God does. Learn to follow what God says. Learn to notice what God sees. Learn to love what God loves.

And in this, find rest.

To be honest, this concept is still a struggle for me. But I have had glimpses. Some of my happiest days have been ones when I have set aside my own agenda. Some of my most meaningful days have been ones when I have looked for ways to help others.

I have felt the lightness of the gentle and humble yoke.

But then I worry, and take my heavy and self-centered yoke back.

But I think that’s okay. Jesus says “learn from me.” That means there’s a journey. After all, if we take this analogy further, an ox doesn’t wear the yoke 24-7. Each day, the master puts it back on. Each day, I have the choice of which yoke to take.

Hopefully, I can be smart enough to take the light one more often than not.

This is what Jesus saying "I am gentle and humble in heart." reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, Have you ever been an outsider?

*Photo Credit: Drongowski on Flickr Creative Commons.