IN HEAVEN

In Heaven, Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.
“What did you do?”
Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind
Ashamed.
Presently God said:
“And what did you do?”
The little blade answered: “Oh, my lord,
“Memory is bitter to me
“For if I did good deeds
“I know not of them.”
Then God in all His splendor
Arose from His throne.
“Oh, best little blade of grass,” He said.

-Stephen Crane

This parable in poetry, by the famous Naturalist, Stephen Crane, rewards a little meditation. On first read, the poem is about humility. It calls to mind Jesus’ own words that “he who exalts himself will be humbled but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” On further thought, though, we find a second, more central insight: the little blade of grass was not filled with any kind of false humility; the little blade of grass was the only one that saw itself clearly. It is important that Stephen Crane uses grass for this illustration because of the sheer absurdity. What can a blade of grass really do to distinguish itself from another blade of grass? Are not all blades of grass exactly alike? And what can a blade of grass do in the way of good deeds? Do not all blades of grass live in the same fashion? Only the little blade of grass saw his existence clearly. There are countless more insights to be gleaned from this deceptively simple poem, but the one I settle on is this: true humility is found in seeing ourselves clearly, not as the triumphant heroes deserving of what good comes our way, and the victim in every misfortune, but as simply another blade of grass made special only by the attention of a gracious creator.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

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