Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Beatitudes
- Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
- 2002 12 Dec
"The artistry of Scripture makes me giddy sometimes," writes poet, author and creative writing teacher Sharon McMahon Moffitt. This attitude of delight and joyful abandon shines throughout Moffitt's first book, The Blessed: A Sinner Reflects on Living the Christian Life.
Using the Beatitudes as a springboard, Moffitt reflects on what it means to live the Christian life -- a life that is countercultural, that requires paradox and that is more about healing than rescue.
In the following interview, Moffitt shares some of her insights on blessings and the beauty of the Beatitudes.
Crosswalk.com: In your new book, The Blessed: A Sinner Reflects on Living the Christian Life, you define what "blessed" really means. How does it differ from bliss or happiness?
Moffitt: I'd say that bliss is a state of peace that comes from living a life of spiritual integrity. It's about wholeness, about coming before God body, mind and spirit and giving yourself into his hands. The blessed life is simply the promise that regardless of our circumstances, God is with us. Emmanuel.
I make a distinction between blessing and happiness because of the way we use the word "happy" in the culture--to mean gratification and self-indulgence. Further, the word, "happy" derives from a word that suggests chance, as in good or bad luck. It implies something unstable and unreliable, whereas the blessing of God is his immutability.
Crosswalk.com: What did you learn about your own life as you examined it through the lens of the Beatitudes?
Moffitt: Well, the book is very personal, and it turned out to be a journey of discovery, which I think good books usually are. I discovered quite a bit about myself as I began to dig deep into this passage, and these discoveries are woven throughout the narratives in The Blessed.
The nutshell version might go something like this: I learned that I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to find love and practice love when what I really needed to do was turn myself over to God. I learned that all the while I was trying to fill my life, God wanted me to upend it, empty it out, so he could get in. Mind you, understanding this and doing it are not the same thing. I'm realizing that the emptying out is a daily thing, not a one-shot deal.
Crosswalk.com: Should we take the Beatitudes literally? Why or why not?
Moffitt: Well, I presume that what you mean here is did Jesus mean that we should strive for these character traits in the most literal and physical sense? In the book I defer to Dallas Willard who is an eloquent, scholarly man. Willard says that the real message behind the Beatitudes is that God was throwing the doors to the kingdom wide open to include even those poor in spirit, meek, mournful, etc.
Still, I think there is a call in this passage, a call to a simpler life, a call to be more real and more honest about ourselves. In that sense, I think we should take them much more literally than we do.
Crosswalk.com: How can we allow the Beatitudes to transform us?
Moffitt: Surrender to them, I guess. Put them up against our cultural values and see where they differ--and they WILL differ-- and then choose Jesus. We can't transform ourselves, but he can.
Why is it important for us to take on the "posture of the Beatitudes" when we approach God?
Pride, which is the cornerstone of all sin, makes us stiff and rigid. I see this most clearly in my relationship with my husband. I'd far rather be mad than I would admit that I've been hurt.
The Beatitudes invite us to be malleable; they invite us into humility and that means vulnerability, and that scares the heck out of most of us. To assume the posture of humility requires courage because it's going to mean trusting other people, trusting God-- but it is in that posture that we become workable clay in his hands I think. I pray for the courage to let down my guard and lay down my weapons.
Be sure to stop back tomorrow, to read an excerpt from The Blessed.