"Blessed are the meek ... "
My dad used to be a pilot. He flew small, single and twin-engine prop planes. He earned his commercial license and his instrument instructor license. He never flew for an airline, but occasionally did fly passengers. Most of the time, he flew cargo: checks from various cities around the state back to Charlotte. This, of course, was before technology made the physical check-in-hand, obsolete. Back then, getting checks back to the banking hub in a timely manner was a matter of many tens of thousands of dollars.
One of his usual stops was in Raleigh (RDU) close to where I lived. Often, he would have a wait, and if he knew that ahead of time, Meribeth and I would drive to the airport and meet him – bring him supper sometimes. It was only for 30-45 minutes, but it was nice to just visit on occasion.
One time, dad called to tell me that he was flying a passenger to RDU and would have a couple of hours of wait time, so we go out to dinner. I don’t know who he was flying; I suppose most of the time he didn’t either – he just knew their name and that they were a VIP of some sort. After all, you had to have money to rent a private plane and pilot and it must be pretty important business if you don’t have time to wait on the commercial airline schedule.
I arrived at the appointed time – it was in the evening and the FBO terminal (Fixed-Base Operator– i.e., the private plane area of the airport complex) was pretty much empty (this was before Sept. 11 and security at FBO’s was pretty much on the honor system). I strolled in as I had done many times when dad was there for his check-runs, but this time was different.
I saw dad coming down the hall, carrying a suit-case with Mr. V. I. Person in front of him. I wasn’t really thinking about things or paying attention, I was just ready to get dad and go get supper! I started to say “Hi!” but dad’s eyes caught mine and he shook me off with a stern look … not angry or anything, but the look said, “Don’t speak. Don’t break protocol.” (OK, we hadn’t established any protocol to break, but I got the message.)
I quickly looked away and walked passed them and took a seat in the waiting area. I could hear Mr. Important telling my dad what to do, when to be back, not to be late … etc. and heard my dad say, “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!” several times, in a voice that was … well, not the way I was used to hearing my dad speak. It was clear, he was the hired-hand. He was the servant.
Did Mr. V. I. P. not realize that MY DAD was the one who had the pilot’s license? That he had logged 10,000+ flying hours? Had flown into and out of thunderstorms … successfully? That he was not only able to fly through those storms but was good enough and smart enough to train others how to do it? Did Mr. Important not realize that MY DAD had just taken him safely to 7,000 feet above the earth and brought him safely back down? You’d think that he would realize who was REALLY important in this scenario!
But my dad carried his bags; my dad dutifully answered, acknowledged and acquiesced to Mr. Big-Shot VIP … and I didn’t like it. I have a strong protection tendency, especially toward those I love.
I did not mention anything to my dad that night. As I recall, he didn’t mention it either. We went to supper, it was nice, but there was a pall in the air. As you can tell, it stuck with me. But I learned from it also. The memory is still a bad one, but I’ve come to reconcile it. My dad understood “his place.” In that moment, he WAS the hired hand; he WAS the servant. Whether I liked it or not. His “job” was to carry the luggage, be on time, do as he was told, and safely fly his plane and passenger to their agreed-upon destination. While he was on Mr. V.I.P.’s time, Mr. V.I.P. “owned” him. When we he was on his own time, he could spend it with me.
Someone much wiser than I once said (and I’ve heard Shannon repeat it several times), “Everyone wants to be known as a servant; nobody wants to be treated like one.” I did not like seeing my dad being treated like a servant although that’s who he was; that’s what he preached, that’s what he taught us to be.
Being humble is not pretty. It isn’t glamorous. There are no awards, no (earthly) rewards; no matter how we (preachers or otherwise) spin it, dress it up, spiritualize it, there’s just no up-side for true humility. And yet Jesus bases His whole teaching on it.
· “Blessed are the poor …”
· “Blessed are the sorrowful … “
· “Blessed are the meek …”
· “Blessed are the hungry …”
· “Blessed are you when people (notice these words) revile you, persecute you, speak falsely against you ...” (see Matthew 5:3-12)
Basically, “Blessed are you when you act like a servant and when people treat you like a servant.”
This is something we’ve got to master (forgive the reverse pun) if we are going to be disciples of Jesus. The disciple of Jesus does not retaliate when hit; does not refuse an evil person; offers up to the thief more than they stole from them; goes the extra mile. (Matthew 5:38-42)
These things are not valuable to the world, but they are valuable to the King of Kingdom of Heaven. As His disciples, we are on His time. We ARE servants and not just in name only. He expects, nay DEMANDS that we … give to the needy, care for the sick, tend to the needs of those in prison, love our neighbor as our self, love our enemies, and so many other things that can only be done when we are truly humble and willing to be humiliated.
[If this rubs you the wrong way, then good. Our “flesh” is prideful and does not want to be humiliated. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5)]
I don’t know when the next time you will be asked to carry luggage, or acquiesce to another person’s wishes … I just know Jesus has called us to follow in His steps … and His steps led to a cross, a humiliating cross. But on the other side of that cross is glory. But more than that, there is the admiration of a Heavenly Father who will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”