Being mistaken about life, the things of God, and the human soul is a deadly serious matter. That is why the work of apologetics is so important. So we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And we speak with all the clarity and reasonableness we can muster, simultaneously counting on the Spirit of truth (John 16:13) to accomplish, with what we do, an effect that lies beyond our natural abilities.
– Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness

Allure” is such a gorgeous word. It is extremely compelling when applied to the work of apologetics.

By God’s grace I was allured by gentleness at a very early age. My aunt and uncle took me in as a toddler when my parents weren’t able to care for me. My uncle worked for the Alabama Highway Department as an engineer, but his first love was preaching. During my formative years we travelled around on weekends so that he could preach in small rural congregations that couldn’t afford a pastor. Looking back later, I realize folks may have made a fuss over me largely because I had been taken in. But then, I just thought that church was the place you went where you were loved. 

When Uncle Ralph preached, it was my habit to squirm. And it was here, in my squirming, that I had my introduction to the allure of gentleness. Aunt Rubye would turn me around in the pew or chair, fold my hands on my lap … and then came the part I loved the most. She would gently lift my chin and cup her hand around my ear, and her warm breath would whisper into my ear, You need to be quiet and listen because God is trying to talk to you.” 

During one of those invitations, God did talk to me. I heard God through Uncle Ralph’s voice as he quoted John 10:27, My sheep hear my voice and they know me and they follow me.” And with the ears of a child, I knew I was a sheep. 

Another alluring invitation came as I read Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. In its pages I heard the voice of an older brother, spoken with the same loving invitation as Aunt Rubye. I was being spoken to by someone wanting me to be clear about who God is, and who I am. I was being drawn by the reality of a God who wanted me to live my life with him. 

Richard shared an image that captured my heart and compelled a lifelong desire and prayer to live in God’s presence. It grafted an impression of God’s love for me into my soul. Richard described the Prayer of Examen as God’s scrutiny of love.” God is love. I could come to him as a child, without fear. God is my Father. God, near as my breath, is available and wanting to help me see what I’m doing and why. My Father’s love is a settled, compelling, secure reality. Goodness and mercy are always following me.

It is a beautiful thing when a lost sheep, out doing God knows what, hears the voice of the Shepherd. It is a miraculous thing when that lost sheep begins to see that she is known and loved and invited into Life — when she learns she has a soul overseen by a God who delights in and guards and keeps his sheep. Souls, like sheep, wander and lose their way. We are reminded, and privileged to remind others, that we sheep have a common Good Shepherd. 

There is no sheep that the Good Shepherd does not want to find. This Good Shepherd, who died to redeem his sheep, calls out so they can hear his voice. Those who follow him will find their soul restored. We see the shepherd heart of Jesus in John 4 as he must needs” go through Samaria to seek out a particular woman. Likewise we sheep are sought, and once found, compelled to share the good news. 

Each person, deep down, wants to know this love of God. So we speak the truth in love, with alluring lives and gentle and respectful words. Those of us who know the Good Shepherd entice others because we have found the most beautiful and exciting way to live. Is there a more beautifully alluring thing than that we are known, inside and out, by one who loves us, by the One we can return to again and again? We sheep just can’t — and never were intended — to make it on our own. Little flock, says God, it is my desire to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). It’s hard to fathom an invitation from a God like that to wandering sheep like us. Once overwhelmed by the beauty of this God and his Kingdom, we’re captivated — green pastures and still waters for us! 

On Friday mornings I meet with a small group of women. For over a year we read through The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus. We shared about the voices that had spoken into each of us. We described our images of God. We listened, we learned, we unlearned. We cried together in a safe place. We entered into the Mystery of things we couldn’t understand. We revealed our pain over broken relationships and questions of unanswered prayer, the problems of sin, sickness, and the presence of evil. We looked to Jesus as our model for living. We rejoiced in the ways we each had been allured by gentleness (and lamented over ways we had not) in our particular lives. We took time to listen, to help one another think about life. We saw the ways hurry and worry were robbing us. 

I like to think that my little group is doing apologetics in ways Dallas would have enjoyed, and listening to life together in ways Richard would celebrate. Together we are helping one another love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Through the Spirit, individually and corporately, we are aware (and we remind each other when we forget) of the good ways we are being invited into life with God. Seeing the beauty of Christ in one another, celebrating the fact that God is with us, we are becoming the alluringly attractive, fascinatingly winsome women we were created to be — the persons we are taking into eternity.