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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:3

I’ve always loved the beatitudes, and the promise of deep blessing for the those who experience the brokenness of life most acutely. And yet, despite that love and connection, I would gloss over the blessing for the poor in spirit. I felt sorry for those “poor in spirit,” who had to wait until heaven for some relief. I didn’t understand the phrase, and I pictured these poor souls with grey skin and enlarged eyes, poor in body as well as spirit. It was a phrase that made me shudder.

Then my second son was born, and he would not sleep, which meant I didn’t sleep either. In the long nights, as I begged God for some relief and some rest, I heard a whispered reply to ask instead for “poverty of spirit.” I brought this surprising longing to my spiritual director, who helped me to see that I was being invited to ask for the grace I had already received: the poverty of spirit that comes when you have reached your physical limits, when you realize the fragility of your humanity, when you see how little you can do on your own and how much you are dependent on God. I entered a season of praying a colloquy, or conversation, with Jesus on the cross. It was there in the very limits of his humanity that Jesus showed me how he had lived the virtue of poverty of spirit, up to and especially in his dying.

As I have lived into my own poverty of spirit, years after those restless, sleepless nights, I’ve come to realize that poverty of spirit is always present. We are, each of us, the poor in spirit, limited in our humanity, wholly dependent on God. We just don’t always know it. We run from our poverty, hiding it away in the trappings of life and the mask of busyness. We make the mistaken assumption, like I did, that poverty of spirit is something “out there,” in others, to be either fixed or avoided.

Lent, this season when we journey with Jesus through his life and to the cross, is an invitation to inhabit our poverty of spirit, to breathe into our poorness. This is uncomfortable and challenging, a pulling of ourselves into the broken interior spaces we instinctively avoid. Mercifully, we know that we are journeying not just to the cross, but to the resurrection. And we have the promise that, as we are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is ours.


~ by Lauren Burdette