Here is a short devotional I gave tonight at Evening Prayer at our house tonight. May it be an encouragement to some.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”
I wonder if you’ve experienced your faith like I have. A faith that began with grace, but then turned into something else entirely. A faith that began with the recognition of utter failure to measure up. A faith that found joy in the freedom of letting go. But then, at some point, that faith changed.
It turned into a faith in yourself and what you could do for God. And then your joy was replaced with guilt and shame or maybe even apathy because you were so tired from the pattern of trying harder, followed by failure, followed by guilt and shame, followed by a renewed desire to ‘try harder’, repeat ad nauseum.
I wonder if you’ve ever been at a point in your walk with God when you say; “I shouldn’t struggle with that anymore”…
I give you permission to be honest about who you are. I give you permission to embrace all of yourself, even the nasty bits. You can be honest about your pride, your anger, your greed, your lust, your envy, your vanity, your gluttony. All your imperfections.
I give you permission to stop hiding. I give you permission to bring that thing you do in the secret place, that drives you into deeper darkness, out into the light. You know, that thing you do, or believe, or love, that secret thing that if anyone ever found out they would be surprised….I give you permission to bring that into the light.
I give you permission, the right to embrace all of who you are right now in this present moment. I give you permission to let go of trying to be what you think people perceive you to be and just embrace who you are. John Calvin says that “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” I give you permission to know yourself and embrace all of who you are. And when you can do this…you truly will be a fortunate one.
Because fortunate is a better way to speak of someone who is blessed. Fortunate is the person that embraces Jesus’ portrait of a disciple. Fortunate are the ones who have the courage to live into the portrait that Jesus paints. And the first stroke of this portrait of a disciple is the stroke of spiritual poverty.
“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”
Let me say it a different way;
”Fortunate are the ones who can acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy, because they will experience the loving reign of God now.”
Jesus says that we are the fortunate ones when we can own our spiritual bankruptcy. We are fortunate ones when we can acknowledge that we’ve gone to withdraw some of our spiritual riches and found that the account is empty. I’m lucky, Jesus gave me the gift of my addiction. God used my addiction to show me my pride. God uses my continued longing to escape to show me how powerless I am and how little control I have in this life. As a recovering alcoholic, I’ve had the joy of understanding what it means to be spiritually bankrupt, to be powerless.
The first step of recovery in a 12 step program is this; ‘admitting that I am powerless over alcohol – and that my life has become unmanageable’. Jesus is inviting us to embrace and to return to this step of powerlessness, this place of spiritual poverty.
Jesus is inviting us to admit again and to admit often that we are powerless and that our life is unmanageable. When we do this, we live into our membership in the community of fortunate ones. The community of people that have found freedom in letting go, being honest, ending resistance, taking off the mask.
Unfortunate are the ones that must keep up appearances. Enslaved are the ones that have to try really hard to keep people from seeing their imperfections that ALL of us have. Exhausted are the ones who live behind the veneer of ‘fine’.
Here in this church, we are not interested in cultivating a people of good intentions, because Jesus doesn’t want our good intentions. We’re interested in walking with brothers and sisters who fall before an ever merciful God. Who confess with all their heart this line from ‘Come Thou Font of Every Blessing”; Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”.
Our first step in the kingdom, and one that stays with us as we walk is a step of surrender. Daily we say; “we’re broke, we have nothing to bring”. This transparency, this vulnerability that I give you permission to have is actually a courageous way of walking with God. It is the doorway into an experience of the Kingdom now.
Stop hiding. You don’t need to anymore. That is what our first parents did in the garden, they hid in shame. But there is a new Adam. And he says to us;
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Mt 11:28-30
A new adam has come, he has come and though he was rich, he has made himself poor for our sake. He did so in order that you and I could embrace our poverty and walk courageously into the Kingdom where He reigns.
Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on us…we are sinners.