Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Mystery of Meekness

The word "meekness" has always mystified me. It's one of those words in the Bible that has eaten at me for years. I have chased the original language and examined various ways in which Jesus used it, like you would a Rubik's cube. I've always been bothered by it. To me, it has always conveyed weakness -- a mamby-pamby Savior who took the "turn the other cheek" message to an extreme that made me very uncomfortable with His masculinity.

Until recently, the closest I have come to understanding "meekness" is through Matthew 11:29, "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 me, I conjure an image of a giant oxen, strong and serene, a gentle beast that could harm a human easily but that submits to service in plowing a field. 

But even then, that didn't fully explain "meekness" to me. Someone once told me that "meekness" is defined as "gentle strength," and I tried to wrap my brain around that. I guess the way I solved that definition by imagining Yoda teaching Luke in the Sky Wars trilogy.

And yet. I still didn't feel like I understood meekness. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. What in the world? What did it mean? How could I possibly be "blessed" by being, in my mind, spineless? Because even though I had sort of solved this, I still had this nagging thought that meekness was not something to be admired -- and that those who were meek were those to be pitied.

Well, three months ago, it finally happened. I finally found a real-life example of meekness, and ironically, it came in the form of my 13-year-old dog, Achilles. 

Achilles is an American Eskimo, and I've had him since he was a puppy. I've watched him change over the years, and like every dog lover, I have worried about how he moves a little more slowly, sleeps a little longer, eats a little less than before. 

But then in November, my teenage son and I decided to get a kitten from the local animal shelter. My son named her, "Rose," and like every kitten, she's a little tiger in training.

And Rose loves Achilles.

Loves him.

Follows him everywhere, from room to room. Waits to eat her food until he ambles up to his own food bowl and starts eating first. Curls up next to him in a tight ball and purrs her heart out. Sometimes she even walks on his head or bats his big doggy paw with her tiny claws. He never flinches or moves and tolerates all of it.

I started thinking, "I guess poor Achilles is finally an old man. He never snaps at Rose and even acts like she's not even there. I wonder if Achilles is senile."

One day, Achilles was standing by the back door, waiting to be let out. Rose was perched on a kitchen chair, craning her neck at the door, because she knew he was going to get to go outside. Rose is an indoor kitten, but she waits by the door for Achilles to return and meows until he's back.

I opened the door for Achilles. And suddenly without warning, Achilles transformed into the dog he used to be. He charged across the back yard like a ferocious hunter, barking and growling and snarling -- and running as fast as he did when he was a much younger dog. Achilles had spotted a squirrel, which went racing up the nearest tree. It surprised me, because I hadn't seen so much life in Achilles in a while.

But it also surprised Rose.

Rose leaped off of the chair and raced into my bedroom and hid under my bed. When Achilles came back inside, she did not greet him at the door. She edged out of the room cautiously, studying him from afar at the door while he chowed down on a dog treat. 

Achilles then ambled back to his favorite spot on a living room chair and put his big furry head down and peered around. Where was his buddy Rose? She crept into the room and jumped on an ottoman and approached him. He then turned on his side and exposed his tummy to her, and she laid down next to him.

Suddenly, I had it.


Gentle strength.

Blessed are the "meek."

Achilles was "meek" with Rose, not because he was afraid of her, not because he was old and senile, not because he couldn't move like he used to, not because he had lost his fierce edge that dogs have when they chase a squirrel or protect you from a home intruder.

He was meek because he had chosen to be. He recognized that Rose was a creature that depended on him for companionship. She has nothing to offer him. Sometimes she eats his food. She pesters him. She can't be in a room without him. I actually think she drives him a little crazy.

But this old dog accepts this little cat and in his own sweet way has welcomed her into the home. At any moment, from what I observed that day with the squirrel chasing incident, he could choose to tear her in half. He could choose to bite her and snap at her and even kill her. 

But he's meek. He is exhibiting "gentle strength."

Now what does this have to do with us, and what did Jesus mean when He said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth?"

Just this: If you are a believer and you are walking with Christ, you already possess His strength. You know the heart of God, because you have accepted His forgiveness and mercy. You know the companionship of His Spirit, because He offers that to us when we genuinely follow Him. 

In Him, you are strong. Face it. You are.

Now there are also hurting people all around you -- non-believers, those who are disillusioned by fake Christians, those who have been cast out by society and deemed worthless, those who just need a little compassion and kindness.

It's time to be meek with them.

It's time in this crucial period of history to exhibit gentle strength to all who come in contact with us. You have something -- a peace that passes all human understanding -- that they are seeking. Like Rose does with Achilles, they might pester you, bother you, pepper you with questions, insult you, take things from you (Rose loves to hide Achilles's dog toys under the couch), chide you, judge you ... the list is endless.

But blessed are the meek.

You could probably easily rip them apart, just like Achilles could rip Rose apart at any moment. You could say unkind things, quip hasty judgments at them, show impatience at their lack of understanding, throw your hands up and say you can't be bothered.

But blessed are the meek.

Your job as a believer is to exhibit gentle strength, so that others may know Him as you do.

The mystery of meekness. It eluded me for years, and now I feel like I finally get it. 

Blessed are the meek.

Today, embrace meekness. Own it. And offer that gentle strength to others who are dying to know Him.

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