blessed are the pure in heart…
“blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” – matthew 5:8
i am back, longing for the beach as always but glad to be home, too. we had an amazing time on our vacation, just the 7 of us. my back held up pretty well considering, but do i ever miss the days when i never even had to think about it. my body just worked. sometimes, now, it feels like a full time job.
on my trip i read 4 books, 2 novels & 2 memoirs. it was lovely. my favorite read was lit by mary karr. it was the wild & beautiful story of a poet and writer’s journey to sobriety. it was full of wit, pain, and everything in between. i laughed out loud so many times & cried a few times, too. it reminded me, yet again, of the healing power of the central theme of the beatitudes and 12 steps–humility. in all kinds of ways i could identify with mary’s journey & the deep desire to “find a short-cut” instead of having to do the day in and day out heavy lifting of an authentic, humble, connected life.
over and over she resisted community, resisted prayer, resisted needing anyone, resisted change, resisted healing. these things were so much harder than the comfort & escape of a drink. well, lots of drinks; she was most definitely a binger. always, though, we can plug in almost any addiction–work, church, drugs, porn, sex, relationships, approval, food, you name it, and the same thing can be said. all of these ways of escaping are a lot easier in the short run. in the long run, though, they destroy, divide, and hinder freedom. they are not a pathway to peace, but rather a sure road to shame, self-hatred, and in-grown eyeballs.
we have three more beatitudes to wrap up this series. this 6th one fits so well with lit & mary karr’s journey toward change. in this beatitude, Jesus says, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
pure in heart. in most of my christian experience prior to working the 12 steps, i was taught that purity meant perfection. when our hearts were “right with God” then somehow we wouldn’t be sinning, struggling, stressing. now i see it completely differently. i see purity of heart as humility. an openness to God. an honesty with ourselves, with God. an authenticity that doesn’t feel the need to hide or pretend or do all kinds of things to cover up what’s really going on inside.
when we are pure in heart, honest & open, we see God. a barrier gets lifted, a veil gets removed & somehow, some way, we intersect with God in a way that we can’t when our pride & games are getting in the way. maybe it’s somehow connected to the scripture in 2 corinthians 3:16-18 that says “but whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. for the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. so all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. and the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
in my own journey, i know how to hide from God, others, and even myself. it wasn’t that hard to do. in lots of ways, my church experience helped with it. to hide, all i needed to do was surround myself with a bunch of other people who were going through the motions of faith by going to church, studying the Bible, growing kids “God’s way” and stay as busy as possible. the busier the better because then i didn’t have to reckon with the deep loneliness inside, or the feeling of tension that any moment someone was going to find out about the two-faced-ness of my life–trying hard to look good on the outside while my inner life was wracked with shame & guilt & anger toward myself, God, and a whole lot of other people.
i remember when 17 years ago i was asked to become more “pure in heart” and be more honest about what was going on inside in my relationship with God, myself, others in the confines of a safe women’s group at a church in san diego. i was terrified. literally. in fact, i found all kinds of ways initially to get out of having to share. i whined about the group not using the Bible enough. i complained that there didn’t seem to be a point or an end or a finish line to strive after (the stuff that i am best at). i found ways to give just “enough” information to look like i was contributing while holding back the real stuff. but i kept going & over time, something broke in me and i started to become more honest. the truth be told, though, it was about 3 years into this group–right when jose got out of the military and we moved to colorado–that things really started to kick in on what it might mean to be more honest, more pure in heart. i had barely scratched the surface when i had to move.
however, what had happened there lingered. i saw that the more honest & humble i was toward God, my flaws, my weaknesses, my struggles, the more i did in fact, “see God.” freedom started to flow & i felt some of the fear i originally felt dissipate. i began to feel more connected to others, to God, to myself in the midst of the mess.
now i associate the word “mess” with “pure in heart.” before, i thought pure in heart meant clean, shiny, new, perfect, squared-away, put-together, unbroken. now, i think of pure in heart as messy, honest, real, unhindered, raw, vulnerable, authentic, human.
human beings feel. human beings are messy.
part of my journey toward more purity of heart has been continually embracing my humanity & God’s divinity. i spent a lot of years trying hard to strive to be divine when that was never the idea . i always fell short, i always lacked, i always felt separated from God. all the energy i spent cleaning the outside of my cup didn’t do me a lick of good; it actually just equaled more church volunteer work & more ways to pretend.
when i finally started working on honestly addressing the inside of my cup, the heavens parted & i was able to see more clearly my humanness & God’s divinity. and my desperate need to remember “there’s a God and i’m not him.”
regardless of this awareness, the tug toward wanting a more clean, less messy life always beckons me. i try to figure out ways to “get purer faster” and sometimes juke and jive myself out of confronting the realities of my humanity & all the ways i continue to struggle with freedom & deep, lasting peace. but i know, maybe more than ever, that this beatitude calls me to stay on the path of honesty & is the one i want to keep walking on. it’s the place i’ll see God, myself, others in new ways that need seeing.
so, that’s what this beatitude means to me in this moment. what about you?