Liberia and gentleness. Gentleness and ... Liberia? Liberia and brutality might seem to ring truer as an appropriate phrase, given the news of recent weeks. Whether it is the years of fighting between government troops and rebels, the recent tense standoff, or the renewed fighting of this past week, gentleness would not be a word that instantly springs to the mind dwelling on Liberia.
A recent BBC report hinted at something different, though. It didn't ignore the intensity of the fighting, the disturbing images of child soldiers and trigger-happy rebels, or the tragedy of civilians on the move, bombed, gunned down, and hospitalized. However, with a deft touch its final moments included a few words which pinpointed the general gentleness of the Liberian people.
That got me thinking. I have been concerned and praying about the civil war off and on for years. Like many people around the world, I'm sure, I have been doing so more intensely because of the recent news focus on it. I believe that spiritually affirmative prayer, which grasps the goodness and all-power of God, helps move situations in need of healing closer to solutions. This has been proved time and time again in my own life, and I feel I have seen evidences of prayer making a difference in circumstances of broader concern.
My prayers for Liberia had been based on the hope of seeing something bad ending, namely the brutality and war. After the BBC report, my prayers took a new turn. I began to pray for the restoration of something good - the ability of the Liberian people to express their gentleness freely, unhindered by any arbitrary force.
More accurately, I affirmed the spiritual substantiality of gentleness as a divine quality inevitably present everywhere, as an expression of the presence of God. I saw gentleness as not weak but resilient. I confirmed the durability of gentleness as an eternal quality of God that will stand, and still stand, long after brutality has fallen. My heart sang with the echo of a favorite psalm from the Bible, which - in half a dozen words - glorifies the nature of God and the awesome impact this has on all of us as God's spiritual reflections: "Thy gentleness hath made me great" (Ps. 18:35).
The psalm these words come from is introduced, in part, in the following way: "David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies...." David wasn't glorifying God's gentleness and his own experience of expressing that in an era of peace, but after a period of turbulence, rife with death and destruction. In the same psalm - perhaps more logically - the victorious writer glorifies God as "my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower" (Ps. 18:2).
God is all these things, to all of us. Yet it is God's gentleness, according to the Psalmist, that makes him - an army commander of his day, and a king for many years - great.
Apparently, Liberia has this inherent greatness to share with the world, and surely the world needs this quality to be shared widely.
Perhaps it's not as obvious a resource as the oil that runs our cars and fuels our factories. Yet it's a vital resource. In fact, oil is described in Mary Baker Eddy's book on spiritual healing, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," as: "consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration" (pg. 592).
If, as the BBC reporter concluded, Liberians are a particularly gentle people, then perhaps the world needs to protect and encourage their "exporting" of this spiritual oil supply.
Like me, you might not have soldiers to offer to a peacekeeping force or political muscle by which to influence the decision of policymakers. We all, though, have prayer by which to affirm that a vital resource such as pure gentleness is never abandoned to a cruel fate. Gentleness is not fragile; it is God's own nature, and is unconquerable.
Perhaps for the men, women, and children of Liberia - each a valued child of God - we can affirm their expression of God's gentleness makes our world great and God won't let us lose, or lose sight of, such a valuable, God-given gift.