Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
These words jumped out at me. In a flash, I recognized myself in them. Poor in spirit: familiar words, the beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I had heard them a thousand times. I’ve even preached from this text on scores of occasions, but never paid attention. In honesty, most of us preachers blow right by these souls — the poor in spirit, the first who Jesus mentions — to focus on peacemakers, those who seek mercy and all the rest.
Poor in spirit. That is me.
Lacking faith; lacking energy to even search for faith; lacking passion, drive, commitment; and shrinking before the slightest danger. It struck me — there is a biblical description for what ailed me: poor in spirit.
After a brutal attack (in a church, no less) I’ve had no stomach for the matters of faith that motivated me for years. I haven’t prayed. I can’t attend church because of its traumatic associations. I was mad at God. So broken in spirit, I had no energy to even carry on the argument. Indifference is the best descriptor for my attitude toward God, who had called me, led me, guided me for all my life.
Well-meaning colleagues and friends pointed me back to the Psalms and Lamentations, where I could share the doubt and argue with God. But I didn’t doubt (I believed). I didn’t want to argue. I was just broken. Too beat to care.
Of course, I beat myself up about this. I feel terrible for feeling terrible. I feel bad for being indifferent and unwilling to try to restart this vital relationship that sustained me for so long.
And then I read these words: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed. Could that be? God who loves this world blesses those of us who, for whatever reasons, can’t feel the love? We, too, are blessed — the poor in spirit, the broken and battered and beaten down? Yes. Blessed.
We don’t even have to have the energy or commitment to argue, to fight. We don’t need to be able to get out of bed. And yet, blessed.
Grace! This was the word I had waited for.
I can fold up my tent and cower under the covers and even admit that I’m failing at this faith thing now. And still the word is spoken to me: blessed.
Indeed, this is grace. The kingdom of heaven belongs to the likes of us too: failures and frightened; former fighters for peace, love and justice.
I don’t have to do anything but lie here. And still, I am blessed. Graced. As I am. It has happened to me. Blessing covers me and grace has come over me. Now. Here. Even in this barren place, I am not outside the kingdom of heaven.
Forgiving myself for being poor in spirit has been perhaps the most difficult aspect of this sojourn in the desert. I am going to get over that now and just be, blessed.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers