The scene replays in my mind, its glorious Technicolor images impressed upon my childhood: the Tin Man, sweaty and wincing with clattering teeth; the Scarecrow, dumbfounded, wide-eyed, open-mouthed; the Cowardly Lion, wringing his tail and hiding his face from the giant-headed image of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
“I am Oz, the Great and Powerful!” bellows the giant head. “Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?”
She takes a feeble step forward, fumbling through a curtsy—sweet Kansas Dorothy, in her blue gingham dress.
“I, I am Dorothy—the small . . . and . . . meek. We’ve come to ask you—”
“SILENCE!” the Wizard thunders, cutting short Dorothy’s request . . . and my wandering imagination.
The scene fades away to sepia-tone in my mind, but one phrase lingers—a lackluster string of syllables, certainly no way to assert oneself before the leader of a land:
“I am Dorothy, the small . . . and meek.”
Choose Your Words Carefully
I’d been struggling to come up with my “word for the year” for weeks. Each of the other ladies in my accountability group had already chosen a word and submitted an explanatory email, listing the reasons for her selection, focus verses, and goals as to how she would like to grow spiritually through intentional focus on her word throughout the year.
I was well-aware of my control issues, so I knew that was a possible area of exploration. I also knew I needed to work on sin issues related to anger and self-control. But which word to choose? Was there a word that would touch on all of those areas?
And then, like that moment when Dorothy steps out of her plain, dry, beige-gray house into the vibrancy of Munchkinland, it came to me: I didn’t want to focus on a word that would inevitably turn my focus toward what I could do. I wanted a word that would point me toward what I want to become.
That word, my friends, is meek. Meek like sweet gingham Dorothy from Kansas. But mostly, meek like gentle shepherd Jesus of Nazareth.
This year, I want to be meek. But the nagging voice of cynicism whispers in my mind, Isn’t that kind of . . . weak?
Yes, I have chosen my word, but truth be told, I don’t like it. It goes limp on the tip of my tongue, and my mind, ever prone to word games, twists “meek” into the lethargic, wimpy word-child of its imagined parents, mousy and weak. But the decision is made, so it’s time to explore the idea of meekness in Scripture by answering a few questions:
How is meekness defined?
How is meekness depicted?
How is meekness developed?
Defining Meekness in a World of “Strong Women”
Perhaps I’ve exaggerated my dislike for the word “meek” a little. After all, I’ve been under the teaching of Scripture for quite some time, and I know, intellectually, that meekness is lauded in God’s Word and something to be desired in our lives as Christians.
But we first need to confront this reality: The world sees meekness in women as antiquated at best and the product of oppression at worst. In an earlier post on this blog, Mary Kassian pointed out the difference between a worldly view of meekness and one that is biblical:
In modern English “meekness” carries the stigma of cowardly acquiescence. But the meekness of the Bible—the meekness manifested by God and given to the saints—is a strong, active, volitional, courageous attitude.
Next, take a look at the entry for “meekness” from Easton’s Bible Dictionary:
Meekness: a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked (James 3:13). Peculiar promises are made to the meek (Matt. 5:5; Isa. 66:2). The cultivation of this spirit is enjoined (Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11; Zeph. 2:3), and is exemplified in Christ (Matt. 11:29), Abraham (Gen. 13; 16:5, 6) Moses (Num. 12:3), David (Zech. 12:8; 2 Sam. 16:10, 12), and Paul (1 Cor. 9:19).
Christ, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul? Hardly a lot of mousy wallflowers. These are the fathers, champions, and crusaders of the faith, not to mention the Savior Himself! In fact, they are the bold and the strong, portraying the characteristics of God that Charles Spurgeon referred to when he said.
These are great launching points from men and women of the faith, but what about Scripture itself? What does the Word of God have to say about meekness?
Depictions of Meekness in the Word-Inspired
1. In Psalm 37:7–11 we read:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
From these verses, what can we glean about meekness? Here are a few ideas:
Meekness is still and waits patiently.
Meekness does not fret.
Meekness is not angry or full of wrath.
Meekness receives a godly inheritance and delights itself in peace.
2. Isaiah 29:19 says: “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD,
and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.”
What do we learn here?
The meek will be given an ample, ongoing supply of fresh joy from the Lord.
The supply will be such that the poorest among believers will exult in the lavish provision of their God.
3. Here’s what we find in James 1:19–21:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Here we find these important truths:
Meekness chooses words carefully.
Meekness restrains anger.
Meekness receives the saving power of the word with gladness.
Developing Meekness in Your Life and Mine
We’ve looked at man’s idea of meekness, and more importantly, the Bible’s view of meekness. Now what? What tools can we use to cultivate meekness in our daily lives?
One more confession: this isn’t (ahem) the first time I’ve studied meekness. Several years ago, I was working to prepare a devotional on this passage from 1 Peter 3:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (vv. 3–6)
I had recently attended True Woman ’08, and as I searched the Revive Our Hearts site for resources, I stumbled upon this fantastic list developed by Kim Wagner. It’s called “Characteristics of a Meek and Quiet Spirit” and was adapted from an earlier work by Matthew Henry.
The list pairs characteristics of a meek spirit with supporting Scripture passages in an easy-to-read and encouraging format. My goal for this month is simple: write out the list and each Scripture passage by hand (this just happens to be a technique that is helpful for me), and then pray through it, asking the Spirit to develop these qualities in me.
Perhaps you’d like to join me in making meekness a thing to desire this year? As Kim wrote in the resource above:
Meekness is calm confidence, settled assurance, and rest of the soul. It is the tranquil stillness of a heart that is at rest in Christ. It is the place of peace. Meekness springs from a heart of humility, radiating the fragrance of Christ.
It’s not mousy. It’s not weak. It’s not feeble, iffy, or trite. Meekness is sweet like Dorothy. But more, it’s wise, faithful, sacrificial, and compassionate like Christ. It’s slow to anger, power under restraint, gracious, and beautiful like the Father. It’s who I’m supposed to be, dear sister. And you, too.