"How honored are those who do not use force,
for they shall receive the earth."
+ + +
Lord, being gentle, refusing force or manipulation, is terrifying. I'm quite convinced that I can take, I'm good at it, but waiting to receive requires a level of vulnerability which I'm not always prepared to render. What if I wait in vain? I suppose I doubt sometimes that you provide. I doubt that things can operate as you suppose, which is the same as doubting that this is in fact your world. Do you not know that we live in a dangerous violent world which might just roll over me if I let down my guard? I know it a foolish question. You know the violence personally. All violence is personal to you. I may be imprisoned behind my walls which I construct as a show of strength in a hostile world, but at least I am safe. Is this really safety? Being locked behind an impenetrable wall sounds more like death than safety. But a freedom, true freedom, that comes as I learn to be loving rather than forcing myself on the world is, as I said, terrifying. It puts before my face the reality from which I normally avert my eyes, the reality that I am a creature, contingent, and feeble. Of course, hiding behind these walls, walls like intellect, youth, and privilege, doesn't make me less a creature, less contingent, less feeble, but does give a sense of confidence. This confidence, however, is at its root fear. This fear keeps me separated from the earth, others, and you, Lord. Even my beloved gifts, which I use to shield myself from the world, are corrupted in this act. I cling to them as my safety instead of receiving them as something to be shared. They become instruments of separation instead of communion. Though able, you did not resort to using force to claim the earth for yourself. In your supreme act of meekness, you opened yourself to the world and in so doing reconciled the creation to yourself. My knee jerk reaction is to say, "yes, but I don't want to die." Avoidance of death, however, is not an option and our relation to death often structures how we live. So Lord, help me to receive my life as a gift, help me to increasingly learn gentleness and to refuse engaging the earth with force. Teach me how to inherit the earth as you have already done through your perfect love which drives out fear. Amen.
[The photo comes from a small chapel in Gegenbach, Germany which graphically depicts the various beatitudes from Matthew. The chapel was a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.]