If I asked you to list ten words that describe you, would “meek” be on the list? My guess is that it would not. It probably would not make a list of one hundred words you would compile. I’m not sure when I have last heard the word “meek” used in conversation. But it has been on my mind lately. Pastor Sarah first got it on my radar screen, when she used it brilliantly in a funeral homily for one of our church members. A few weeks after that I had a rather lively and engaging discussion of the word “meek” in one of our adult Sunday School classes.
Meek … the Merriam-Webster online dictionary uses these words to describe “meek”: deficient in spirit and courage: submissive. That is probably close to how we usually view this word. Most of us will remember it from the Beatitudes in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” And we find ourselves thinking of those tragic souls in our world that God rewards in the afterlife. But after hearing Pastor Sarah’s sermon, and then teaching the aforementioned class, I now have another phrase to describe meek … “tempered strength.” I fell in love with the image and knew that I would want to share this image with you. It will transform your hearing of the Beatitudes forever.
When I hear the phrase “tempered strength” what comes to mind is tempered steel. Check out this Google description of “tempering.”
Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of iron-based alloys. Tempering is usually performed after hardening, to reduce some of the excess hardness, and is done by heating the metal to some temperature below the critical point for a certain period of time, then allowing it to cool in still air.
THAT … is a theological statement. Does it not describe the challenge of life? Facing those “heated” moments that present themselves to you in ways that strengthen you and toughen you in a positive direction … in ways that makes you resilient … in ways that makes you stronger? I often find myself in “heated” moments that stop somewhere short of a “critical” encounter. And I breathe a sigh of relief that things did not explode. It is a passive reaction at best. But what if we would see those critically heated moments as “strengthening” ones. What if we saw them as opportunities to grow into the kind of “meek” spirit God has in mind for us? My default option in conflict is typically avoidance. I am a conflict coward. But as I have reflected on and even at times pray about this image of tempered strength, I wonder if I have more than that in me. God seems to think so. And I know God sees that same potential in you. Pray about it with me, will you?