The first Beatitude: “Blest are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) is one that I found troublesome to understand. But when I heard Bishop Barron explain the ‘poor in spirit’ as those who are not addicted to good feelings, it made much more sense. Our society seems to expect us to always be happy and if we’re not, we feel that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
I had several days recently that were rather trying; nothing horrible, I was just perceiving everything as requiring a Herculean effort. Why did even the simplest of tasks seem so difficult? I kept praying and asking for help, yet it seemed as if I was moving through semi-solidified gelatin. With the expectation of needing to put on a good face, or be required to answer probing questions of what’s wrong, my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energies were depleted by the end of the day. Instead of having a good night’s sleep, my sleep pattern was interrupted, resulting in the next day my waking up tired or cranky, or both. I started to think, “What’s wrong with me? Why is this happening?” The expectations I had for myself were not being fulfilled, and I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I was still praying, yet the words seemed hollow.
While I felt like I needed to put it in God’s hands, what exactly was I putting in His hands? What kind of intercessory prayer should I be praying? Because I felt like I was making poor choices, how could I ask God to fix something that I was responsible for? That was not fair to God. But that is a very human way of looking at life. God wants everything: our good and our less than stellar selves. The days were a hard slog to get through, and it was very difficult not to dig myself further into darkness by casting poor judgements upon myself. Then while at Mass, poor in spirit kept coming into my head and I realized what I was going through was an exercise to strengthen me for when I’m not my happy, smiling self.
Everyone has times when not for any particular reason, they’re just not happy. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong or needs to be changed, but rather to stay the course and take things slow. It may mean that you need to go half-speed, and that’s okay. Some chores may only be half-done or not completed at all, and that’s okay. You may feel that you are lazy and making bad decisions, and saying prayers without meaning them, but it’s important to keep trying and to continue to ask God for support. These types of days don’t last forever and they are helpful in strengthening our compassion for others. While you may not feel very blessed as you journey through those cloud-filled days, the sun is still shining on the other side of the clouds and eventually the clouds will break. No matter how far away God seems to us, He is always walking the way right beside us.
When we allow ourselves to experience a full range of feelings throughout our human lives, and allow God to guide us through each, our lives are truly blessed. We can appreciate the happiness and joy of life because we experience even the days that are a struggle. Our lives are not summed up into one day or the feelings we had on any particular day. And we may never fully know or understand what God can do as we allow Him and His will be done, as we muddle our way through those dismal days. But perhaps when we look back on our lives at the end, we may see the exquisite masterpiece God has painted, using the shadowed-times to punctuate the times of vibrance and full-color.