I am in the process of studying the Beatitudes with my Women's bible study group and decided to transfer what I am learning and teaching to my blog.
In Matthew 5:3, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
When I read through these in preparation for this study, I said a little prayer out of what I think was kind of like confusion. What God, are you trying to say – reveal to me what you want me to gain.
I was listening to a sermon by Kyle Idelman, in where he was teaching from Joshua Chapter 6. He talked about this familiar story but he highlighted something specific that I hadn’t heard before. He highlighted the in between. In this story, th Lord gave Joshua instructions to do things for a certain period of time or a certain number of days. I always wondered why…why for a certain number of days, or for a certain period of time, in a certain way?
Kyle highlighted the in between as the transformation. There’s something happening in the middle that is transformative.
In that moment I was listening, I got it. Thank you lord, right?
There’s something about the beatitudes that’s missing for me. It was what was happening in the middle. If we are to examine the words “poor in spirit” in more detail we find that this is pointing towards poor as in destitute, begger, or fully dependent on someone else.
What I felt like God was telling me is that when we are empty, when we are helpless, BUT if we seek Truth with a capital T, we will find the Kingdom.
Jesus is not giving us a statement – he is affirming the power of Grace. We must humble ourselves admit that we too are poor (or without) in spirit except for the provisions given to us by Christ.
Let’s read through Matthew 6:25-34
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “what will we eat?’ or “what will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?’ For the gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly father knows that you need all these things. But seek FIRST his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean, author of Set Apart, says helplessness is our greatest asset.
That was a hard pill to swallow, because we are taught something completely different. We are taught that we are supposed to be empowered. To be independent and self-sufficient. We are supposed to be transformed in the in-between of what is inevitable. We are supposed to be transformed by Grace when we face what will be a season of trials, suffering, and that feeling of emptiness.
Recently, I was sitting in the bathtub reading through this material and began thinking about my college years. (and how much I was still being molded) and thought about a poem by William Ernest Henley I had to memorize when I was pledging a sorority. The poem titled, Invictus, was written, at least to me, as a pledge of empowerment to oneself. Let me preface by saying I have no issues with my sorority as an worldly organization – I do however now have an issue with the rhetoric that was ingrained in me at such an age where I was still being shaped.
Here’s the poem:
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
I was sitting in the bathtub and thinking to myself – Oh Lord! So I decided to rewrite the poem. Again, not out of disrespect for William Ernest Henley, but to bring peace and clarity to my soul.
So I decided to rewrite it – for me.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank the only God that is
For Jesus conquered my soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have winced and cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, and now bowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Hope is found under his shade.
And so the trials of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not the open gate,
How charged with punishments the world,
The Holy Spirit is the master of my fate
Jesus is the captain of my soul.
We are empty and we look to fill ourselves with SOMETHING. But we are supposed to be transformed in the in-between – not conformed to the patterns of this world but through what is inevitable by Grace.