Take The Humble Path (Tuesday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
I have a favorite poem called “The Self Slaved” by Patrick Cavanaugh. It’s too long to quote the entire poem here – go google it – but there are several lines that are powerful:
Me I will throw away.
Me sufficient for the day
The sticky self that clings
Adhesions on the wings
To love and adventure…
I will have love, have love
From anything made of
And a life with a shapely form
With gaiety and charm
And capable of receiving
With grace the grace of living
And wild moments too
Self when freed from you.[i]
What is stunning to me about this poem is how humble it is. The writer, Patrick Kavanagh, has obviously come to a point in life where he’s tired of the old, “self-righteous” and “sufficient” self, the self that thinks it knows where it’s going and how to get there. He’s obviously lived long enough to grow tired of the self which is incapable of the “grace of living,” longing now even more deeply for the life of freedom, full of “wild moments,” “capable of receiving,” capable of love.
Every maturing life must go through periods of humiliation, where our egos are shown their limitations. Inheriting the earth is not about attaining, accumulating, or conquering. You don’t get the life you want by buying it. Joy can’t be bottled. Those who are “meek” have been refined, through brokenheartedness and grief, now humbled and freed from self-necessity. They inherit the earth because they’ve fallen into the goodness of it.
When I share this in a talk, a small quarter of the room nods with a knowing look while many sit and stare, unsure of what I’m getting at. We’re so addicted to upward mobility that the thought of necessary humiliations along the way is puzzling. Maybe a story will help. I was speaking with an Uber driver recently who had great success in his first 35 years of life in Silicon Valley. And then, out of the blue, he received an invitation from his board to meet. With details of his narcissistic, self-serving behavior, the board gave him 30 minutes to clear the office he’d occupied for 3 years, a bare bones “go-away” financial package, and an apology for not doing it sooner. It was swift, shocking, and painful. He was red-faced, heartbroken, and enraged. He fought back over the next weeks until his mind and body literally couldn’t fight any longer. He told me that he surrendered on that day.
Driving for Uber to pay the bills in the city he once viewed from a 20 story office was the ultimate humiliation. At times, he’d pick up people who once adored him. But he was humbled. He was no longer looking for someone to blame, no longer playing the victim. In a 30 minute drive from my hotel to the airport, I experienced the free soul of a man who’d descended from the heights, quite literally, and fallen into goodness. He said to me, “Every ride is now an opportunity to learn, to share, to be thankful for every moment.”
Blessed are the meek. They’ve found their way down to the ground, to the place where Jesus is and where Jesus can meet them.
Humble Savior, you paved the way for my journey of downward mobility. But I’m scared. Sometimes, this feels like too much. How much of me needs to die? How does that even happen? Will you walk with me on the way and guide me into places of growth, even when I resist? And will I really experience goodness? Will you be near, even in my questions? Amen
[i] Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1964), p. 160.