Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. — Matthew 5:8
Earth’s crammed with Heaven
And every common bush ablaze with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning
I believe, like Browning, that God is present to us always. When we stop and pay attention to the beauty and intricacy of the created world, the love and honesty that shine out of many human lives, the strength and wisdom that arise in of times of darkness, the whisperings of rebuke, guidance and comfort in our own lives, we can see God. But how often do we stop and look? How often do we see the grace and glory that surround us? What hinders our seeing?
Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Too often I lack this purity. I want to know God, see God, work with and for God, but I also want to be liked and admired, and I want to be safe, and I want to be able to sidestep some challenging demands… When my desires and my fears fill my mind there is no room left for seeing God.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” This resonates with my own experience: when I am ashamed of myself I avoid trying to see God because I do not want to be seen. I know trying to hide from God is futile, just as Adam must have known that hiding in the trees wasn’t going to keep God from noticing him, but that doesn’t always stop me trying at least not to see my own resentment or greed or weakness of will. The energy I put into concealment feeds the things I fear, and it gets harder and harder for me to admit and confront my faults.
The only way out that I know is to return to willing one thing, to stop focusing on my self and my self-image and to start thinking again about the work God has given me to do. Then I let go of myself and am set free. Then I can see the grace that mends and works around and even through my faults. Then I can see God.