“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." (The Message)
Recently, I read a writer about his take on the beatitudes. He tells a story about a woman he met who's son had walked away from Christianity because he was a successful businessman and he did not want to have to live out Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount. The writer then goes on to explain how this self-reliant businessman did not have to embrace the beatitudes as his own. Instead proposes that Jesus' words were exemplary, in that he was pointing to the Jewish crowds that surround the mountain who were obviously poor in Spirit. He was using them as an example to teach the disciples about the fact that they were blessed because God's kingdom is for them.
By contrast, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about what it meant to be a disciple. He stated, "They [the disciples] have neither spiritual power of their own, nor experience or knowledge they can refer to and which could comfort them. For his sake they have lost all that. When they followed him, they lost themselves and everything else which could have made them rich. Now they are so poor, so inexperienced, so foolish that they cannot hope for anything except him who called them" (Discipleship, 103).
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, those who are at the end of their rope. Blessed, content, happy are those who are dependent, needy and leaning on Jesus for everything.
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In most cases, when we talk about those who are blessed, we don't have to explain why they are blessed. This is even true of the Old Testament (See Deut 28). The blessings are obvious. But when I am "at the end of their rope" I don't "feel" blessed. The blessings are not obvious. In fact, it's just the opposite.
When we are in this place, we have the opportunity to enter into this "poor of Spirit" state and embrace it, thereby we find of a place of "less you and more of God and his rule" or we can fight the state of poor in Spirit, try and take control of our lives anew and find that place of self-reliance again. Usually in our culture, we are told and we tell ourselves that the goal is to get through the tough times and get back on top. We assume that we must get over the pain of being at the end of our rope as quickly as possible. When we do this, we miss the transformation that the Spirit wants to bring to us through this poverty of Spirit. We miss what we can only learn through struggle, pain and suffering.
Discipleship involves depth of character and depth of soul. It's something we so often lack in American Christianity because we tend to try and jump from happy success to the next happy success. There is a deeper reality that God is trying to weave into our lives, one that we can only see when we are no longer blinded by our self-reliance.
The point is not to try and make yourself "poor in Spirit" or that there is some kind of glory in being "at the end of your rope." The point is that if you are following Jesus, as were the 12 disciples in this passage, you will soon find yourself at that point of being poor in Spirit. It's the way that we grow in Jesus dependance as opposed to self-reliance. Being at the end of your rope is not a pleasant experience, but it's the way that God's rule is woven deeply into our lives.