“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Psalm 37
Christian piety is, by the standards of traditional orthodoxy, never good enough. “Give all that you have to the poor and follow me,” Jesus told a rich young CEO. The guy, Harvard-trained, turned tail back to the office. Some claim Christ himself was being more than a bit hyperbolic. I think that’s true.
The injunction to righteousness can be crippling, in a way, because the heart-felt desire to do good is, in plain fact, never good enough anyway, as Luther himself observed on bloody knees. We’re saved by grace, not works, and the combined good deeds of all the Boy Scouts of the world won’t make a difference. Thus saith the Good News.
I find lines like this verse disconcerting, declarations of the glories of a piety that’s so grandly unattainable. Maybe it’s all the fault of my Aunt Meek.
Honestly, I knew her only silver-haired. Physically, she was, like all the Schaaps, small and square. As did most of my father’s brothers and sisters, she had an adolescent giggle, a little warble that eventually rose into an off-key falsetto. Sitting in a room of Schaaps was like being surrounded by seagulls. Her name was Marie, but everyone called her “Meek.” Even as a child I associated the biblical word with her character.
The woman got her own Beatitude. And she was my aunt, too.
One other thing about my father’s family—they were all good, good people. A cousin of mine told me that a marriage counselor once told her that her own marital problems were caused by having too good of a father—my uncle. What a curse.
Aunt Meek’s children can probably recount moments when she fumed, when she flashed hot bolts of anger. She could not have been always as soft and gentle as I knew her. But the fact remains, that if Aunt Meek is the model for biblical meek, then I feel crippled by a standard I can never reach. Humble, kind, and sweet, she was among the kindest of human souls.
And what about me? There were times, I admit, when, frustrated by the administration of the college where I worked, I rose to speak in a faculty meeting and roundly accused the brass of lack of leadership. Some lauded the speech; others felt it a violation of whatever defines “community.” But what’s clear to me—as I remember—is that I wasn’t acting in the least like Aunt Meek. I was abrasive and, even arrogant in my desire to lay a glove on honchos. Will I not inherit the land? Are God’s blessings not mine?
Good question. Will peace be the blessing only of those who don’t rock the boat? Does “servanthood” imply servility? I know this much: that speech of mine did not grant me peace. I spent sleepless nights wondering if I’d said too much, gone too far.
The only way I can begin to answer the questions I’m asking is by opposing meekness with its opposite—pride, the kingpin of the Seven Deadlies. If rising temperature and volcanic behavior is created by pride—my desire, my will, my personal sense of injury—then I’ll always be a renter and never inherit God’s bountiful blessings.
The $64,000 question: was it? That’s for me—prayerfully—to determine, I guess. Perhaps I should say, that’s for me, meekly, to determine.
Strange as it may seem, it has to be possible to fight injustice meekly. The phrase is not oxymoronic. It can’t be. The Bible tells me so.
Pride, however, always goeth before the fall. That truth I need to bring home into my heart.
How?—well, meekly, I’m sure.