Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3, NIV
We live in a society that despises lack. We don’t value poverty, that’s for sure. So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? How could that possibly be what God desires for us? How is it a blessing to need?
[…] When I first wrote the words ‘bipolar disorder’ on my blog, I was terrified. What would people think? But I knew I had family support and generous readers, and so I began writing about faith and mental illness. About sitting with God in the dark. And the emails started coming in.
I discovered that the lights have gone out for many of us. You know how, when you close your eyes, for a moment you can still see the outline of what you were looking at as faint orbs? That’s how it felt when the light went out for me: I knew the light had mass and form and it was still there, but I couldn’t make out anything. It’s the smallest hope of light. And it’s that hope of light that I want to share. When the whole world goes dark, even the tiniest glimmer shines.
~ @aliajoyH in #GloriousWeakness
From the first two pages in her Introduction, Alia Joy had me thinking about #GloriousWeakness themes on the paradoxes of “need.” Words that came to mind about being “poor in spirit” mostly surrounded the concept of lack — need, neediness, holes, darkness, what’s missing instead of what’s there, unstable, chaotic. Then, a cosmic simile about darkness and light struck me.
Having “toxic neediness” is like becoming a black hole. We absorb all else from everyone else whom we dragged in while driven by our scramble to find stability. We seek to fill up what is missing, perhaps even try to fill the void ourselves. Ironically, feeding that very sense of instability itself generates constant chaos.
But having “true need” is like becoming a nova. In a flash of light, we reveal what is there, who we truly are. We may give off a deep if uncertain hint and hope that order will eventually rule over the temporary chaos caused by lack. And – wonders of wonders – the emission of light invites people in.
I’m sure I’ve oversimplified the astronomical aspects of black holes and novas, and perhaps overdone the metaphorical elements. But, it seems to me those are outweighed by the value in the contrasts between the projection of darkness and light, and their parallel connections to neediness and need.
Personally, I find that to ignore or fill up my neediness makes me cranky, but to recognize my need sparks my creativity to find ways to navigate what seem to be unavoidable barriers, or skunkwork ways to cross over a gap. I’ve had to do that a lot, because I’ve dealt with multiple chronic illness conditions my entire adult life. Constant dealings with lack — of energy, of stamina, of health — has marked my life daily with shrouds of darkness.
There’s a paradox, though. Sitting in the dark, we invite in the light that, ultimately, God Himself brings: Jesus, the light of the world.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ” (John 8:12; ESV).
The beatitude chapter of Matthew 5 brings us full circle from the chaos of nova-need—“blessed are the poor in spirit” in verse 2—to the creative witness of becoming a light to the world that shows forth the Father.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthrew 5:14-16, NIV via Biblegateway)
In the darkness of our need, God gives us a Sun who brings warmth and light that makes us into His redemptive metaphor: “Blessed are the poor in spirit …”
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I find Alia Joy tremendously insightful; hopefully you’ve been intrigued enough to want to see more. If you’d like to read a sample of Alia Joy’s Glorious Weakness book, there is a link near the bottom of this page on her website to a downloadable sample. The PDF includes the Foreword (by Seth Haines), and her Introduction, and Chapter 1: The Nakedness of Need: The Glorious Weakness of Poverty.
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And check out her most recent blog post, The Syllables Are Love, in which Alia shares about her book and the launch team. See if you are as captivated by her vulnerability of heart and loveliness of language as I have been ..