“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” ~ Matthew 8:5
When I take a step back and look at my life, with everything I’ve been through, and everything I’ve done, I wonder how could anything pure could still exist in me? No one gets through this world untouched. And like a lot of people, not only have I been touched by the world, it’s flat out beat me down a time or two. And that leaves a mark just as surely as sin does. That’s where bitterness, anger, coveting… all stem from. Broken dreams, broken promises, insensitivity, frustration, betrayal, battle, condescension, these are all things that destroy what was once pure. And that’s just lightly touching the surface.
So when I read the first part of the verse, “Blessed are the pure of heart,” I say, Yes, bless them, we need more of them, bless their pure, sweet, innocent hearts. And then I read the rest of the verse, “…for they shall see God.” And I think, “Just them, or does anyone have a bible with a different version that’s maybe a little more vague and encompassing? No? Then what does that mean for me?”
What does it mean to have a pure heart? How can I ever get one of those?
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”
That tells me right there, in and of myself, it is impossible for me to have a pure heart.
But, what is impossible for me, is possible for God. By the grace of God, I can have a pure heart.
I think a pure heart is a forgiven heart.
One night at a bible study, our lesson was based on a Rob Bell video we watched. The message had this to say: There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you less. Nothing you could ever do to make him love you less. Nothing. This message really meant a lot to me because I grew up hearing these words from my parents my whole life. “There is nothing you or your brother could ever do that would make us love you less.”
When I was about 7 years old, my brother and I accidentally broke something of mom’s. I don’t remember what it was, but we were afraid to tell because we didn’t want to get into trouble. When Mom found out (as Mom’s do), she decided she needed to come up with a way for us to feel like we were able to come to her with anything we’d done. So, one day, she got us together and showed us a keychain. It was a simple little keychain with a picture of a puppy on it. She told us that any time we did something we were afraid to tell her about, we could bring her the keychain. It didn’t mean we wouldn’t be punished, but Mom promised us that if we brought her the keychain, she would not get mad or yell, but she would talk to us about what had happened or what we’d done. We didn’t have to be afraid because she would always love us, no matter what we did. She hung the keychain low on the wall on a nail beside the washing machine and told us it would always be there when we needed it.
I remember, vividly, one occasion when I used the keychain. I had been sent to my room as punishment for something I had done. I was so mad about getting into trouble, I wrote on my bedroom wall in big, little kid letters, I hate mom. I don’t remember what I used to write it with, but I do remember that it didn’t come off with an eraser, and it didn’t come off with water. I instantly became afraid, and ashamed. I knew three things for certain. I knew I was going to have to tell mom what I’d done. I knew that it was going to hurt her badly. And I knew there was no way around it, because there was absolutely no hiding it.
So, I walked into the kitchen. With trembling hands I removed the keychain from the nail, and with tears streaming down my face, I went to find my mom. She didn’t get mad, but when I told her, she started to cry. She hugged me, and took my hand and led me into the kitchen. We got a small bucket from under the sink and filled it with soapy water, my mom handed me a sponge, and together we walked back to my room, and to my wall. The worst part of the whole thing was the guilt and shame of having to face those blatantly mean words again in front of her. She knelt down beside me, and together we scrubbed the words off the wall…every last mark. I still, to this day, feel terrible for writing it. But I don’t remember ever talking to mom about it again.
I decided to use this story as an illustration at one evening service when I volunteered to give the message. I thought I’d better let Mom know and make sure it wouldn’t upset her again to hear it. I asked her if she remembered the keychain she gave my brother and I and she told me that she did. She said she’d even thought about that keychain just a couple of days earlier. I took a deep breath and I told her what I planned to say about my writing on the wall and what a horrible daughter I am. She sat and listened until I’d finished. And do you know what she said? She said, “I don’t remember that.” She remembered the keychain, and she remembered that my brother and I had both used it a few times, but she didn’t remember a single thing we had ever done.
How many times do we fail to come to God with our sins and anger simply because it hurts so badly to have to face that sin in front of Him? How many times have we been mad at God, or too busy for God, and turned our backs to Him only to find ourselves standing in front of a wall, facing the sin in our lives, with no way to hide it, and no where else to turn? It begins with a simple prayer of complete surrender, “Lord, forgive me. Have mercy on me.”
We can’t wash away our sin without God’s help. God faces our sin with us. He washes it clean. He forgives us. And then through Isaiah 43:25 He tells us, “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” He forgives us because He loves us. And there is nothing we could ever do, to make Him love us less.
Blessed are those who are forgiven, washed clean, for they shall see God. Achieving a pure heart is not something we can do once and maintain. It is a constant renewal by the grace of God. Blessed are the pure of heart, the forgiven heart, the willing heart, for they shall see God.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.