Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines meek: “Having or showing a quiet and gentle nature; not wanting to fight or argue with other people.”
Fair enough. But over the course of my spiritual development, the meaning of that definition continues to evolve.
As a young football player, I had little use for cultivating a quiet and gentle nature. Little did I know that the only character in the Old Testament called meek was Moses (Numbers 12:3).
As a student at a small liberal arts college learning highbrow manners, I thought meekness was part of niceness. I appreciated the French translation of this Beatitude: “Heureux sont les débonnaires” (Happy are the debonair).
When I became a family man, I learned that quiet gentleness with the ones I love requires strength. It required more strength than blocking a behemoth or writing a thesis. It took a strength that required putting myself aside for another.
So meekness developed from weakness to civility to patience. Humility grew muscles.
But I had more to learn.
You see, I thought that the promise of inheriting the earth meant that to the habitually nice, good things will come. Not that I missed the lesson that life is not fair and that the innocent suffer. But that was just an idea.
So I learned about meekness when, despite my niceness, life became unfair to me and I suffered anyway. I learned about meekness when I fully faced that some people would not like me no matter what. I learned about meekness when there seemed no mercy for me.
In this Beatitude, Jesus alludes to Psalm 37. The psalmist addresses the apparent prosperity of the wicked who exploit those who live humbly. “The meek shall inherit the land” (v.11) against all appearances that nice guys finish last.
In depression’s dark heart, God made a pearl called hope. God washed me to a shore called courage.
Courage to hope.
Hope for what? That bets were not off on goodness after all. Jesus passed through scorn and mercilessness unto death before Easter. And Easter came.
The meek know that is their story too. They take up their crosses and follow him through pain to joy — joy that comes God-knows-when and God-knows-how.
The meek know they sin, but they return over and over to pursuing the cause of goodness. They refuse the despair of resignation to sin. They embrace the courage to hope. That is the highest strength of all.
“Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34). Those who wait for the LORD, those who hope are the meek. And they who were aliens in a dog-eat-dog world shall find themselves at home on earth.
Courage, Fear, and the Ambiguities of Life
Comfort and Courage
Choosing Goodness with No Reward in Sight
An Apology for Caspar Milquetoast