I got my coffee all doctored so it tasted like a dessert. I sat down with my Bible, my journal and my colored pencils ready for lots of juicy notes. I was puffed up with the excitement of how I was going to ROCK the Beatitudes like nobody’s business. Right, so let’s see... “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Inner monologue: Hmmm… nothing coming to me. Poor? Poor in spirit? I thought these were all about squeezing the fullness out of life? Well, maybe this one needs to go with the next one to make sense. “Blessed are those who mourn...” Mourning. Grieving. Ooookay. Hmmm… The truth of it is, I had no idea. I always thought of the Beatitudes (and really the whole ‘faith thing’) as a list of things TO DO/TO BE that would make me ‘good’ and my life ‘blessed’. Me, Myself and I – oh yes, we can kick booty on some to-do’s. So, as I sat there all Suzy-Spiritual and ready to get my Christian on, you can imagine the jolt that came when I realized that there is actually nothing I can do. The Message interprets this verse “Blessed are you when you are at the end of your rope. When there is less of you, there is more of God.” William Barclay paraphrases, “Blessed is the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God.” It turns out that the beatitudes are less about adding to the list of MY accomplishments and more about letting go.
This is where it’s so easy to say, ‘I just don’t get it’ and move on. But remember when and how these words were whispered… on a hillside, friend to friend, in the midst of a culture clamoring for freedom and happiness, a culture much like our own. In the story, the Disciples followed a ‘trending’ Jesus off the big stage of familiarity and into intimacy. To ‘get this’, we must do the same. We have to shut out the noises of our busy world and take a silent minute to consider this question: if God made me, maybe He knows exactly what I need, when I will need it, and how I can get it. And if so, consider His words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Picture yourself as an empty wine bottle. Inside you have come up with the perfect plan for what is going to give you happiness. You create a diet/exercise routine, you immerse yourself in all sorts of do-good/feel-good activities, you read self-help books... You figure it all out, and then you put a cork in the top so that you don’t lose control of your plan. And then you float around in your little life. You read about how you are supposed to feel this soul-deep happiness; but even though you are doing all the right things, you still feel empty.
This verse is asking each of us to let go of all our plans, our prejudices, our I-can-do-this-my-way’s. It’s asking us to sit down with Jesus and say, “Will You do this for me?” This verse says, take out the cork. And as you do, the blessing-water, the Heaven-kingdom-goodness-that-really-satisfies fills that bottle, bit by bit. You don’t even know what or where it is coming from, but as you let go, Jesus flows in and you sink into soul-deep meanings, and you find that you are truly blessed.