by Nate Butler
(Editor’s note: This is the 3rd in an 8-part series on The Beatitudes & Evangelism [reference: Matthew 5:3-10].)
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Your mother’s oldest brother is the ultimate spiritual authority in your family,” the missionary explained to me about the Native people in Western Canada.
In my nearly 19 years of holding Christian comics seminars in various countries and cultures, this fact has been one of the more fascinating that I’ve learned.
Because it rings true for me as well.
Because of my late Uncle Ned.
Uncle Ned was an Anglican clergyman and was, in fact, my mom’s oldest brother. And I think it would be accurate to say he was “meek”… as in mild, patient, long-suffering, humble, and gentle, which are the definitions I find in the dictionary.
But Strong’s Concordance relates that “Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control” and is “the necessary balance of exercising power and avoiding harshness.” I’m not my Uncle Ned’s judge, but for much of his life, as far as I knew, this appeared to be true of him as well.
I remember my brother David and I pretending we were barbers when we were little and “fixing” Uncle Ned’s neatly-coiffed hair with our scrubby little fingers. He sat calmly through the chaos and then awarded us with a dime-sized coin from Costa Rica as payment for the “good job” we had done. I kept that coin for years.
By the time I was in my late teens, I was involved in far worse games. My spiritual life had gone into eclipse. Although I had grown up in a churchgoing family, I had decided at age 13 that there was no God. The following five years became a progressively dark and dreary time.
At first, I had gone through a phase in which I enjoyed provoking and debating Christians. But eventually I just despised them.
All of them. Well… almost all.
Despite my horrendous attitude, Uncle Ned had actually remained one of my favorite relatives. So in my senior year of high school, when Uncle Ned invited me to visit him in Massachusetts, where he was living at the time, I responded eagerly. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the invitation was inspired by my parents’ concerns over my shoulder-length hair, my anti-social actions, and my dark, dead eyes.
Uncle Ned had always seemed to be pretty “with it” to me, so when his letter said he’d be taking me to see a Boston musical, I was convinced my cool uncle meant Hair, which was big at that time. Instead, to my horror, it turned out that he had purchased tickets to Godspell, the musical based on the Gospel of Matthew! I was totally disgusted. Don’t these people ever give up? I wondered.
But I did go to Boston, and to the show, and despite my best efforts to hate the experience, I found I actually liked the music. I purchased the record album in the lobby on the way out.
Uncle Ned seemed far too interested by my action, so I literally snarled at him and said, “I just like the music, not the words!” He backed off for a bit, but then tried again, gently, to talk to me about the Lord as we walked home that chilly February night. I refused to discuss it rationally or politely. In fact, I was just plain ugly to him until he dropped the subject.
After another seven years, with me spiraling further downward into destructive behaviors and relationships, I hit bottom.
Nothing made sense anymore. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was losing my mind.
Although by this time I was living thousands of miles away from him, I wrote to Uncle Ned–the ultimate spiritual authority in my family–for answers. And I received The Answer.
It must have been difficult for Uncle Ned to let me go back home from Boston, knowing that I was so lost, hostile, and headed for more trouble. But it was Uncle Ned’s meek spirit that brought me back to him. There is indeed strength in meekness.
Nate Butler (@NButlercomix35) is a former Henson/Marvel/DC/Archie writer and artist now coaching and consulting on creative ways to use the visual storytelling medium of comics as a tool for evangelism and discipleship. He is president/CEO of COMIX35.