Blessed? I don’t know about that.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
January 27, 2023, Words By: Josh Erickson, Image By: Blakely Dadson
A few years ago we ended up adopting an 18-year-old woman (we’ll call her Carla) into our family. She had been abused and rejected by her family — the stories were heartbreaking. We gave her a safe space to catch her breath and find stability.
Eventually, her younger sister (let’s call her Alie) started coming around the house. The more we did life together, the more trust grew. When we had to move across the state, they joined us. They were a part of our family, a wild pair that infused laughter and joy into all of our lives. My children grew to know them as siblings and we loved them as our own.
The day after Christmas, Carla came to our house. She couldn’t even make it in the door before she collapsed into my wife’s arms and sobbed. I came out to the front porch, where they both sat on the ground crying, and learned that Alie, her younger sister, had been killed by a falling tree as she drove down the interstate. Our collective breath was taken from us.
Honestly, trying to find the words to describe the anger, pain, and confusion I’ve felt this month has been difficult. The last few weeks this scripture has been in the back of my mind as I’ve helped Carla get things figured out, went to Alie’s memorial, and had hard conversations with my family. I’ve been searching for meaning in this scripture…searching for some truth to reveal itself to me. Searching for some relief to share with Carla and my family.
I was struggling to see the kingdom that is offered to those that are poor in spirit. I was struggling to see the blessings in this situation. What kingdom is Carla’s? Let’s be honest, to even suggest that Carla could be “blessed” while she was mourning seemed cruel.
I never came up with anything to say. All I found myself able to do was sit and mourn with them, until I could barely even handle that. On the day of Alie’s wake, I went to the service to accompany Carla; I had no intention of taking part in the viewing. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. They had decided to have her lying on a table rather than in a casket.
There was no escaping the reality of her lifeless body. The sight knocked the air out of my lungs; it felt like I was punched in the chest. So I ran. I literally ran away from the room and into the hallway. But just as I caught my breath, I heard Carla enter the room. She screamed and began sobbing. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t escape without abandoning her. I headed back into the room and held her as she sobbed.
When I think about Carla, my heart breaks. Her sister was her person — the one that kept her grounded and sane. It’s easy to see how she could be filled with hopelessness, despair, and resentment. It’s not immediately clear where the blessings, comfort, or Kingdom can be found in this story.
The way I have come to see the Beatitudes is that it is Jesus’ way of challenging the religious status quo. To challenge the idea that the blessings were for the elite, the pious, and those that were born in the right place; they are for the broken, the poor, and the marginalized. In fact, the Kingdom of Heaven has been designed with people like Carla and Alie at the center.
Jesus is inviting us to help create this Kingdom. The invitation is for us to create a community around those that are broken and mourning. To mourn when they mourn. To give voice to those whose voices have been quieted. To show mercy to the reviled. To be people of peace in a world that praises violence. That the kingdom being offered here is a new community that sees your worth. That loves you, hopes with you, laughs with you, and mourns with you.
I might not have found the words to share with Carla, but in the midst of all the mourning I know there was comfort. In the midst of our brokenness there was a community of belonging.
Dwelling Among Us
Where do you encounter the poor in spirit in your community?
Who in your life helps you see the kingdom of heaven in the way Jesus mentions here?