Yesterday was a most interesting day for me! In my morning devotions I picked up an old book on spirituality written by Ronald Rolheiser and read a page or two here and there. He quoted Soren Kierkegaard, who said “purity of heart is to will one thing.” It struck me.
At midday while driving to the airport to receive a friend from Norway, I was listening to a recording of Dallas Willard and he said, “Soren Kierkegaard said ‘purity of heart is to will one thing'”. Wow! Again! Then late yesterday afternoon I scrolled through the tweets that come into my smart phone and Rick Warren had tweeted the exact same quote! WOW! Three times in one day!
What are the chances of that happening by chance – the same quote from three completely independent sources, via different media, on the same day, to the same person? God is trying to say something to me! As the scripture says, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established.” I thought: ‘this is REALLY serious, Lord I’m listening, help me to obey.’ As with Peter and Jesus’ dealings with him, things seem to happen to me in three’s. Maybe because I’m so ‘doff’ (hard of hearing) God has to repeat himself at least three times.
I realised that we ‘will’ way too many ‘things’; we desire, want, pursue, work for, give our attention to, etc, too many things, often completely conflicting things. Our focus in life is so fragmented and distracted and driven by different things – the needs and cares and wants and enjoyments of this life. Few of us have a clear focus, with clear eyes, where we see and pursue one thing, or THE most essential thing(s).
Soren Kierkegaard’s quote was in reference to Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). Jesus said the eye is the gate to the soul. If your eye is ‘single’ – another word of ‘pure’ (focused on God, the true treasure of willing HIS will) – then your whole body and life is filled with light. If your eye is ‘divided’ or ‘disparate’ (seeing/chasing after many things, the false treasure of the glitter of this life), your whole body and life is filled with darkness. That is being lost.
Pure of heart… seeing God… willing one thing. How we need to see God! As clearly and regularly as possible. We need to wash our eyes and hearts, and keep our focus on what REALLY matters in life, on what is of eternal consequence. The question is: how do we see God? And the controversial answer is (to today’s postmodern world): in the man Jesus of Nazareth. Let me leave that and conclude with a comment on “purity of heart.”
My three repeated messages from God made me think immediately of David and his prayer, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Ps 86:11). I wondered if Jesus got his beatitude from King David, especially when you read his other prayer: “And I – in righteousness I will see Your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Ps 17:15). Our hearts (‘eyes’, focus) are so divided and distracted on many apparently important things, so we don’t see clearly, let alone seeing God clearly. Hence we don’t fear God, we live as practical atheists, saying we believe in God denying his reality and existence in our daily lives. Above all, we deny his will… the ‘one thing’ that we should ‘will’ in our daily lives.
It also made me think of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, gazing up at him as she listened to his words of life. Jesus said of her, “Only ‘one thing’ is necessary, and Mary has chosen that better part, the ‘one thing’ of taking time to sit at God’s feet, gazing upon him, listening to his word…” (the RAP – Revised Alexander Paraphrase – on Luke 10:42).
Think about it: purity (or unity) of heart is to will one thing. How do we unite our hearts… wrestle our lives down to the bare essentials of God and his love and his word and his work in the world? THE most important ‘thing’ is to will the will of God.