Blessed are the pure in heart
by Glen Doss, Major –
Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me (Matthew 18:2-5 The Message).
Early on in life I felt a special intimacy with God—he was my best friend. I was reminded of him often in the thrice-weekly meetings of the Baptist church my family attended as our minister, his huge, hairy hands hammering the air before him, boomed God’s presence to us.
In a patch of woods behind our farm was a spot I claimed for my very own. There I would go and meet with God. In my small child’s mind, I thought that only I was aware of its existence. Pines intertwined with blackberry bushes and brambles hemmed in a shady nook some 12 by 20 feet. Leaves served as my carpet, while a slash of light from the sky above doubled as my chandelier. Accessible only by a crawl space a small child could enter, I was certain no other human being had trespassed there.
Seeking privacy from the intimidating world about me, I sought recluse in this sanctum whenever I could. It was there I told my private prayers to God. In this haven that seemed so secretive and safe, I was alone with him—he was my friend, my invisible, tender friend. Something of a loner, I mixed little with other children, but God was always welcome for company.
Despite the threatening tones of our preacher’s sermons, somewhere along the way I came to see God as a caring confidant. In my grassy hideaway, I shared with him my special secrets and listened as he called me his very own. To this treasured refuge I spirited my books—Andersen’s fairy tales, adventures by Jack London. With God as my companion, I had a reading buddy, one who wouldn’t chastise me if ever I made a mistake, but was forgiving of my foibles and thrilled along with me as the knight rescued the damsel from the dreaded dragon’s lair.
In retrospect it is a marvel to me how close a relationship I had with God when I was very small. At the time it seemed entirely unexceptional—it was just the way things were. God was there; I was there; we relished each other’s company. Today I know this early relationship existed because a personal relationship with God is the most natural thing in the world. A small child is nothing if not natural—a small child cannot put on a pretense. The fact that in my life the child was correct and the child-turned-adult was mistaken—I became an atheist—merely accentuates the absurdity of the creature sitting in judgment upon the Creator, of the human presuming to comprehend the divine.
A sharp cry of glee catches the world off guard
as startled deer jerk their heads up high,
perk up their ears, then knowingly sigh,
“A small boy is at hand; God’s own is nearby!”
The child glides over the meadows,
slides through the shadows,
takes the sunlight for a spin,
grandly dances with angels and then
impulsively pauses close by a rose garden,
free spirit aflame with the resplendence of God!
ignited, excited by the brilliance of God!
Beside cool, baptismal streams he dallies
as comes a clarion call,
“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys,”
down the mind’s own canyons,
through the hollows of the soul.
“Take hold!” sings the siren. “Take hold!”
Love’s first soft touch, they say, is gold,
with sidelong smirks—that’s how love works.
A virtual virgin to the wide world’s ways,
the child falls, yearning, to his knees,
peers and pores over
dew-sparkling spider webs—intricately laced,
mysteriously suspended, in the breeze trembling—
eyes wide with awe—a pure, wondering gaze.
At the mountainside of time, the man-child stands—
terrifyingly small against a measureless span
that meteorically sprawls
from vast canyon to canyon, wide wall to wall—
straining to stare through that numinous glare
at the elusive future awaiting him there.
Despite the broad barrier, the child desperately squints
through the blinding sunlight, searching for hints,
till, piqued at the utter futility,
he turns with a forced servility.
The inquisitive and curious,
impassioned, innocent child
remains eerily unaware
how all listening nature reverently bows
while angels say their silent prayers:
“Lord, as he moves to meet his future,
protect him, guard him from himself
and all fiendish evil gathering there.”