Lessons learned from a gentle man
I met Orlen while in my twenties and serving my first church. He was the pastor of a thriving congregation. He had poor eyesight, but his spiritual insight more than made up for his limited vision. Impressed by his accomplishments and the relationship he enjoyed with his church, I once questioned him about the secrets of his success.
“The Bible says the meek will inherit the earth,” Orlen replied.
“What do you mean?” I asked, a bit bewildered by his answer.
“The pastor who is meek will inherit his church,” he explained.
Orlen’s view was new to me, but, to my surprise, I found it to be true for great leaders through the centuries. Moses, chosen to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt, was known as the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3). Earlier, while in a position of power and influence, he had failed as a leader. Finally, after losing his high place in the government and leading sheep for forty years, he was meek enough to lead people.
It’s important to know, however, that meekness doesn’t mean weakness.
Biblically speaking, meekness means gentleness or humility.
Orlen was a gentle, humble man, like his Lord. No wonder he had inherited his church, along with their love and devotion.
My second lesson learned from Orlen came when our church joined his in aiding a needy family. The husband and father had recently been released from jail where men from our two churches carried on a weekly outreach to prisoners.
Together, our churches supplied food, clothing and housing for this homeless family and made numerous attempts to help them find work so they could have a new start.
As time passed with little progress being made in moving this family to self-sufficiency, I began to be discouraged, doubting that this former prisoner was putting forth much effort to provide for his family. I saw our earnest efforts failing and the whole project as a poor investment so voiced my concern to Orlen. His response to my now negative attitude has been unforgettable. “It is better that they fail us than that we fail them,” he replied.
An anonymous writer in a brief but powerful piece entitled “My Eternal Preference” summed up Orlen’s attitude about caring for people:
“When we are given our rewards, I would prefer to be found to have erred on the side of grace rather than judgment: to have loved too much rather than too little; to have forgiven one undeserving rather than to have refused forgiveness to one who deserved it; to have fed a parasite rather than to have neglected one who was truly hungry; to have been taken advantage of rather than to have taken undue advantage; to have believed too much in my brothers rather than too little; having been wrong on the side of too much trust than too much cynicism; to have believed the best and been wrong, than to have believed the worst and been right.”
My third lesson from Orlen grew out of his view that newspapers are the most overlooked means of communicating with people. I took his words to heart and started writing a column. You’re reading it and that’s the rest of the story.