for years, the word “meek” haunted me because of its use in terms of what good christian women should be–meek and mild. these were not exactly words that people would use to describe me. in the early years of growing my faith i remember feeling bad for not being quiet and subdued like so many christian women i met along the way. when i would hear them talking about life & relationships & God & kids i would always end up feeling like the naughty-christian-who’s-heart-was-somehow-not-humble-enough-because-if-it-was-i-wouldn’t-be-so-“much.” i know from talking to so many other women over the years that i’m not alone in this thinking.
i think it’s because there’s a misconceived stereotype of what “meek” really means and how it translates into our real lives.
many of you heard this before but the greek word for “meek” is “praus”. it means strength under control. it is a gentleness, a spirit willing to submit to and trust God instead of controlling. it is letting go instead of feeling the need to press in, get our way, or move to the front of the line. Jesus describes himself this way in matthew 11:28-29 – “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and i will give you rest. take my yoke upon you, and learn for me; for i am meek and lowly in heart: and yet shall find rest unto your souls” (KJV).
to me, meek intimates that we are secure in our position. we are grounded. we have no need to puff ourselves up or prove anything to anyone. we are anchored to Love and Hope and Peace despite our circumstances. we don’t measure ourselves or others by the world’s success. it is a deep knowing of our core identity.
when it comes to living out this beatitude, i think it’s a really challenging one, especially in terms of social change. Jesus was a radical. he stirred the pot and upset the apple cart. he didn’t go with the flow but rather modeled a way of living that was completely against the norm. for us, as Christ-followers & change agents, what does meekness really look like? i don’t think it looks like sitting quietly in the corner and never using our voice or stepping into our God-given power.
i think it looks more like:
- living out what we believe without a lot of words. showing instead of telling. doing instead of talking about doing. we all know the saying “preach the gospel at all times. use words only when necessary.” this requires a meekness, a submitted-ness to God’s spirit at work and a trust that we don’t really have to prove anything to anyone.
- a beautiful and surprising resilience. i’ve written about resilience before. it does not mean that we are unflappable and never hurt. that would completely contradict the first two beatitudes. but i think it does mean that we are able to bounce back from hurt, disappointment, betrayal, woundedness, and all kinds of other pain because of our desire to trust the journey–with all its good and all its bad–instead of expecting God to make everything rosy all the time.
- no need to compare. when we are anchored to something deeper, sure in our position, secure in who we are, we really don’t have to spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others and using measuring sticks to beat ourselves up with. there’s a “yep, this is who i am/who we are” with authenticity. this one is very important to me, especially when it comes to church development. comparing usually never goes down well and causes a striving that is completely contrary to meekness.
- open hands & open hearts. the attitude of meekness is a softness, a vulnerability, a willingness to receive & a willingness to give. this is where i think my twisted definition of meek went awry. i saw meekness as a put-together-ness where everything was neat, tidy, and buttoned down. there’s certainly no humility in that. this kind of strength under control is just the opposite. it is open & tender to experience the fullness of emotions & experiences & ups and downs of real life instead of staying protected and closed-off.
- showing up but letting go, too. i believe in an active faith that includes advocacy & in-the-trenches-journeying-with-others. i think we are supposed to use our hands and feet and hearts and eyes and ears on behalf of others in the same ways that Jesus did. but meekness also means that we respect that God is God and we are not. we can play our part, show up, and pull strongly for what we think God is telling us to pull for. but ultimately, we hold it loosely, respecting our humanness, others’ humanness & the limitations that come with it.
yeah, the more i think about this beatitude, the more beautiful & challenging it is.
God, help us be people & communities who are willing to be meek & gentle, knowing who we really are in you & living from a place of real security. help us let go of trying to prove or strive or cross some imaginary finish line first. we want to have strength that is soft, open, and humble in our relationship with you & others, to learn the art of showing up & letting go at the same time.