What the heck does that mean? In the back of my mind I have this idea that it means that after the bullies have had their fill of things – in the end – one day – the meek will get their chance, their due - the scraps left over from the party.
Once the raping and pilfering and polluting is done. Once the empire crumbles and falls and all of us are reduced to the same empty-handed existence – the meek will be the ones who know how to exist without the toys, the comforts, the conveniences.
Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the Jesus dude had in mind.
I got news last night that John Dare had died.
John was a giant of meek-ness. Standing maybe 5’2”, he was large in my eyes. He showed up in the back row of the congregation one day and never left. He helped out every opportunity he got. He fit in with Bobcaygeon’s retired Torontonians and good farm folk like a lamb among horses.
His conservative church upbringing stuck with him and all my playfull, free-wheeling interpretations of scripture never shook loose his father’s good moral teachings. To work hard, be polite and generous (he tithed from his social assistance cheque), trust in his Maker’s love, and find reason to rejoice in all situations. These lessons were the leather of the shoes John walked in.
John’s health always tenuous. Suffering from a number of complicated ailments, he hadn't the resources to treat himself with good food or vitamins. He seemed to me to walk out of the pages of Dickens – a rich character clothed in poverty and ill fortunes.
He’d tell me about collapsing on the roadside trying to hitch a ride to Lindsay or Fenelon. Or, I’d hear about the latest rescue of John, falling off his bike and needing the assistance of bystanders to revive him. We watched him one night at the dinner table slowly fade into a heap – discovering after we’d called 911 that he was Diabetic.
He had a number of good stories – from army days, from cabbie days, from family life – that would illustrate for me the life he’d endured and the lessons he’d learned. One of my favourites was the story of how he learned to swim.
An army sergeant knew that the biggest obstacle to being relaxed in the water was the fear of going under and not coming up. The sergeant got John to practice at the poolside going underwater and holding his breath. No swim strokes, no kick and crawl. Just timing how long John could hold his breath for at a time.
Once John had plateaued at about sixty seconds, the Sargeant asked John how many seconds he thought it would take him to crawl on land across to the other side of the pool. When John said maybe ten or twenty seconds, he ordered John into the pool, told him to go underwater and crawl to the other side. And that was how John lost his fear of drowning and learned to swim.
And I guess that’s how John got through life too. When you lose your health. When you lose your ability to hold down a job. When you lose your family. How do lose your fear of living? How do you face another day of loss?
John knew there was a way to live without the comforts of health, wealth, or cuddles. He knew that beneath the surface of “things to have and hold” he could swim quite happily from one day to the next.
I take for granted the fresh air of three square meals, cash for comforts, and loved ones that will take me in. I take for granted the strength in mind and limbs to keep me getting out of bed to put in another day of work. I don’t think about these “things” I have any more than I think about breathing.
It seems to me that John, and folks like him, know how to go from day to day with just a few deep breaths. Beneath the surface of things lies the kin-dom where all God’s relations, all deep connections, dwell. The meek swim well in the world where we enter into the communion of prayer. The place that opens us to the love everlasting.
It’s the place where the roots of all living beings intertwine. It's the kin-dom that feeds what’s on the surface. But because I spend so little time there - I trust it not. Scrambling and fearfull on the surface of things I suck up all the air my lungs will hold, forgetting that ever-present breathless place where my soul swims in dreams towards the death of fear.
“So far as things to have and to hold are concerned, everyone is poor alike.
And so far as any need of them is concerned, all are rich alike.
But the advantage will be all on the side of those who, neither having nor needing, do not desire them.”
George MacDonald “The Warlock O’GlenWarlock” 1881
Blessed are the meek, for theirs is the kin-dom of God. Today, each and every day, the meek know they must depend on the good graces of other human beings. Today, each and every day, the meek are them that give thanks for their daily bread – not knowing where tomorrow’s bread might come from. Today, each and every day, the meek trust in the Source of love – knowing better and more keenly than the bullies the cruel sting and bitter taste of life’s offerings. Humble, thankful, enduring with open heart – expecting nothing and offering everything - the meek claim the kin-dom as their inheritance today.
Thanks John for all your gifts.