September 05, 2020

Clenched Hearts

Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of ­heaven.”

—  Matthew 5:3

Make your hand into a fist, clenching it tight. Now imagine that your heart is like that: clenched, closed, so tense and tight that it almost hurts—but in a strange way that tightness feels safer than letting anyone in to hurt you.

Listen as Jesus begins a powerful sermon, declaring, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . .” It’s as if he’s saying, “Of course your heart wants to clench up. It feels inadequate; it is wounded and weary; it feels threatened, like it’s under attack. It wants to protect itself.”

But he knows that a clenched heart might also shut out the love of God. So Jesus invites us to open our hearts, just as they are, wounded and weary. It’s as if he is saying, “Don’t pretend; be real; be vulnerable. You are poor in spirit, but you want to hide that from people around you, so you clench your heart. Let it go! Being poor in spirit is not something to hide; it’s a way to be blessed!”

Years ago a friend told me that on her first day of college, she met her roommate and quickly discovered that this person was tough, hard to get to know, and actually a bit scary. She tiptoed around her for a couple of weeks. Then one day she came back from class and found her roommate weeping. After a hug, they talked things through and found a new way to handle dorm life together. That’s an example of a “dying to live” blessing that can come from being open to one ­another.

Lord, thank you for inviting me to come to you as I am. Help me to open my heart to others—and to show your love. Amen.

About the author — Syd Hielema

Syd Hielema serves the Christian Reformed Church in North America as director of a ministry project called Connections II. He has also served with Faith Formation Ministries, as a professor of theology and youth ministry at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, and as a chaplain and professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. Syd has been married to Evelyn for 43 years, and they enjoy bird watching near their home in Ancaster.

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