blessed are the pure in heart…

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?


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • Kathy, this whole post is so familiar. And I needed the reminder, today especially, that purity of heart is about honesty not appearances. I spent a lifetime thinking that purity of heart meant absolutely no bad thoughts or actions – as you said, perfection. In the year leading up to walking away from the church/cult I was a part of, I was spending 60+ hours a week at the church as a volunteer leader. I had given up reading anything but church approved books (no fiction). I had given up all but church approved music (I’m a musician, for crying out loud!). I quit watching any TV and all but a handful of church approved movies. It was a sick place. Thankfully, Jesus was there with me and walked me right out of that…and He’s still holding my hand and walking me into freedom.

    Hmm…. I think that the more broken you have been by life, the more vulnerable you are to the church teaching that leads to work, work, work – earn it…. I’ve spent my entire life trying to earn the affection of parents – and by extension, God. It has been a long road to learning that affection – genuine love – is not something you earn. It is freely given or it is not real. Still learning that one….

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  • kathy, i so identity with your story and appreciate your honesty in sharing.

    as one who had been in full-time ministry for almost 20 years (i am now working in industry) i understand the incredible pressure to perform in the the church because the model is wrong… I agree “purity of heart” is understanding he is God and i am not. as a recovering performance driven person, this “difficult knowing” causes me to experience grace in profound ways… this simple revelation invites me to a deeper personal frontier of transformation and appreciation for the redemptive work of Christ.

    sadly, my experience with much of the western church is that there is an initial appreciation of transparency and honesty, as people look for authenticity and someone with whom they can relate, but as the dawning of the personal implications for such a lifestyle begin to percolate their souls, fear… no, terror sets in and eventually the offending party is ejected from the system like a virus.

    it can be exceptionally painful–that level of accusation and rejection by those whom you deeply love and hold in your heart–but it also creates an opportunity for humility and growth like few others–an unexpected harvest, if i am willing to stay present with the pain and not, numb-out, check-out or freak-out. i guess, in a way, this ensures that we are not joined (unequally yoked) with others in community, but it seems a blunt, and at times, brutal instrument to accomplish the growth process…

    humbled, pondering and appreciative…

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  • Your definition of purity is SO good….not exactly Webster’s definition is it? But it so makes sense. And humility. Most of my life I’ve seen humility as something that just happens, you can’t make yourself humble. But recently I’ve been learning how humility is a choice. I can either choose pride or humility in any given situation. Unfortunatley I have been “enlightened” to the truth that I most always choose pride and how that choice has affected my life in negative ways. Alas.

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  • Kathy- you sure do wonders when you speak from the heart!!! many points of your post hit home very strongly with me. The notion of accepting that pureness and perfection are not 100% synonymous is really freeing. I truly appreciate Katherines comment as well, being one who has spent close to 49 years now seeking affection/love in all kinds of ways and harboring belief I just am not worthy of it. Keep sharing as you do Kathy and so thrilled for you at the enjoyment you had on your trip!!

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  • Oh Kathy this is so from GOd that I just read this today. I wanna share some things on my heart right now. knowing you will probably really relate to all this – knowing how people are so important to u.

    I’ve had a tough week with family. Wow family is soo hard isn’t it!? because relationships are hard! Life was so much easier when I was better at pretending everything was okay and just fake it and talk behind people’s back instead of actually wanting to be vulnerable, confront things that hurt me and even admit my own sins and ask for forgiveness. I am in such a hard place whenever I get around my blood not spiritual family that doesn’t know His love and I feel almost stuck between 2 worlds. For people who don’t know GOd’s love – their whole world is based on them being good. and so what ends up happening is that my vulnerability comes across as drama, my own issues, a nuisance. Me starting something (where I feel I’ve been enduring cruelty — but just very subtly cruelty) that I want to confront and ask for clarification to make sure I’m not just assuming cruelty or misinterrpretting things….

    Point is.. I realize now after years of coming away bloody after every vacation or time together – that there’s nothing I can do or say to change them or even help in their journey until God breaks down the world and reality they have created and has shown them His love in their brokenness…. there’s nothing I can do but love them for as many days as is possible without a breakdown 🙂 because I’m in such a different world.

    The whole time I’m with them I battle (well after day 3 when people stop being fake and everybody’s realness comes out)… it would be so much easier to just talk about them behind their back, contribue to the gossip amongst each other…. but I refuse to do it anymore and so I am back to age 10… seen as the witch just because I’m the outspoken way. yet to me they seem so cruel the way they jab, gossip – but are able to keep up sweet appearances at all costs and are just mastesr are discrete cruelty.

    So because I’m not discretely cruel and I confront that sublte cruelty I see…. (and also because in my frustration of it all I am pissy and outwardly do sin) I am seen as the B….. but I’m just not gonna cover up my frustration. What’s the point of getting together if we are never going to grow in our relationships and never going to be honest with each other?

    But I’m reminded each time… I can’t be honest….. honestly isn’t the policy in this circle anymore…

    so as much as I am hopefully optimistic every time… thinking yes we can communicate now, NOW we can communicate like adults.. this time will be different…. every day by day 4 i’m bloody bruised and hurting.

    and I am the one seen as rocking the boat just because I’m the one who talks about what is obvious tension between everybody. It’s not a big deal to me. Me talking about the sins I see and relationship issues is a great thing! It doesn’t break down everything for me. NO it’s not easy in the short term… but the love, grace, change God makes through that refinining is priceless!! It’s how I know we get better… but it’s seen as attacks no matter how gently I bring it up … because it disrupts the whole reality of “put on happy face and don’t talk about it except in private”…. and I realize now that they also get soo upset because there’s soo much shame with any sin at all — and they don’t know that I John 1:9- that God loves us and is faithful to help us when we are broken — not condemn us!!! They just don’t know GOd’s love!! They think anytime I bring up anything I am taking love away from them…. they don’t realize I want to be better together.. I want to grow our relationships! and that love, true love is unconditional!

    So my point of typing all this is wow I can so relate. It’s so much easier in the short term to just clean up the outside and fit in…. but I know where it leads me…. and I don’t ever want to be away from God again..separated in my mind because of the shame, hiding, anger I have in me.

    and on a side note.. I have decided to set up the boundary of a 4 day limit with my family… it’s the only thing I know to do to protect my immediate family/husband me kids… I know there’s nothing else to be done… I can’t keep doing this to us and walking away bloody and bruised all the while being “the bad guy”. I feel like scarface. “I’m out of here….. but don’t worry. you need me. that’s right. you need me to be the bad guy. but truth is… you’re the bad guy! you’ve just learned how to lie. i can’t lie”….

    I feel like I’ve entered a different reality and although I have so much peace about where I am and all God has shown me… the turmoil I feel mixing with others for too long who aren’t in the same reality (and who still picture and treat me as who I was before God’s changing) is so hard!!

    the only thing I know to do is to pray every night and ask GOd to change these relationships and open their hearts and uncover their eyes! all the while showing me how in the world to LOVE!!

    anyway — good with boundary idea? you can relate?

    love!!

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  • p.s. also to me…. pure in heart is all about motive.

    there’s no alterior motive in purity. yes we’ll still mess up…. but the journey is allowing God to change the outside to match up what He put inside. The motive is love out of a deep love from God.

    a heart that is not full of God’s love… open to it… surrendered to it… will always have messed up motives (idols)

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  • p.s. again… and as I sat there thinking on all this.. I realize it IS cruel for me to even try to bring up my hurts…. because a) they are not in a place to receive from me b) it’s not my job to bring to light their sins.. that’s the HOly spirit’s place….

    so I realize boundaries are the right way to go… 4 day limit…. and being soo extra in tune to God to allow Him to help me show grace and give my hurts to Him… and MAYBE He’ll ask me to confront…. but … and of course I will be honest when (IF they ever.. which I doubt they would anytime soon) ask me what’s up or what’s wrong….

    but more than anything – I just have to LOVE and I think that means allowing God to take the hurt and talking to Him about it…. not just trying to …. so maybe I AM the drama maker…. geesh. now I’ve come full circle and realized I DO just have to ‘get over it’ like they say… but it’s not the same thing.. because it’s not like “get over it”… don’t mention it but harbor it.. not about being fake…instead it’s allowing God to help me release it… it’s about allowing God to take the hurt so that I can have a pure heart and still love and not resent…

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  • Can I say this? And not come across as completely creepy or weird? I love you. 🙂 I found you on Vimeo and Google searched you and found your blog/refuge site. Interesting and very powerful stuff. My heart is gasping for air, and this whole encounter has given me a breath of fresh air. Very needed. Desperately.
    ~Mb

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  • Oh so so good as always, and I completely resonate with the idea of wrestling with humanity. For sure the clear message in my family of origin was to protect your heart and story and feelings at all cost. It was either happy & productive & shiny or… nothing. Period.

    In the aggravating and slow process of leaning into being more pure of heart, I am finding how painful it is? The whole letting myself feel depth of emotion and loss and vulnerability is SO not fun.

    So many times I have honestly felt like a little turtle, and after peeking out, wanted to protect all of me back in my shell. Knowing that it is actually dark and lonely in there, and that there is hope of so much more out there helps my really.really.fast.beating.heart to choose to trek on..Trusting that it will be worth it, and hoping that the good that is let in continues to settle in my soul….

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  • katherine – yeah, it is interesting how deeply embedded “all or none” thinking is for so many of us. learning to live in the middle of paradox is tricky…but so freeing. i keep learning so much along the way about how against-the-grain that is for me…

    dave w – thanks so much for reading and for taking time to share. i completely agree–too much honestly/transparency/authenticity is a sure way to lose a ministry job 🙂 that makes me so sad, but it is true. this kind of living can most definitely get us into trouble, but it can also lead to this other kind of freedom that is so beautiful and freeing, too. but sometimes beautiful and freeing doesn’t pay the bills, does it? 🙂

    mary – thank you for that. yes, i do think humility is a choice and is always at war with pride, which is my natural default. i think you’d really dig the book i read, lit, i’ll pass it on when i get it back from a friend…so many amazing moments about humility being a choice and how tricky it is to do!

    robert
    – thanks as always for your encouragement & for reading. so thankful for your contributions here!

    randi – thanks for sharing a little bit of what you are going through right now, randi. it is so hard to be in systems or families where honesty is not valued or practiced. it really does create so much tension for the one who’s trying to be more authentic, rocks the boat and makes everyone very, very scared and often very, very angry. sending lots of love and prayers for wisdom & hope & courage & love along the way…..

    jeremy – thanks for the info!

    maribeth
    – thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment. glad you found some encouragement here, welcome!

    stacy – amazed by your courage…thankful that we get to be part of the wild and crazy journey.

    Reply

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