This morning’s time with my Lord Jesus proved the old adage, you’re never too old to learn something new. I’ve been slowly working my way through the good book of Luke, and found myself today sitting in a big field with the masses, listening to Jesus’ insights on happiness. I’ve heard of the Beatitudes since I was a young girl. When times were tough during the depression days and I left the supper table still feeling hungry, my daddy would say, “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. (Luke 6:20) Then he’d have me go to my room and write ten things in my Gratitude Journal for which I was thankful. Though I would have preferred an extra helping of Mama’s mashed potatoes, I honestly always felt lifted in my spirit after considering God’s goodness toward me and my family.
I’ll never forget the day my baby Billy goat, Hurley, died during the night. Mama Goat had birthed two darling little doelings, and we were thrilled she’d had twins. But hours later, much to our elation, out popped Hurley. Oh mercy, he was tiny, but the cutest thing I’d ever laid eyes on. He had a heck of a time walking, though, because one of his legs was lame. Daddy surmised it didn’t get enough air while Hurley was squished underneath his sisters in his mama’s belly. But he made do with his three good legs, tottering around Mama G. trying to get ahold of a teat. Oh, I loved my runt-of-the-bunch. He’d sleep in my lap while I sat in the orchard reading my latest Laura Ingels-Wilder adventure. I’ll never in all my days forget the morning I went out to see Hurley and the girls before walking to school and I found him stiff as a board, dead. I wailed so loud you’da thought I’d been beaten. Mama ran out and whisked me away while Daddy “tended” to baby Hurley. I missed school that day, and I believe the next. I stayed in my bed, baulin’. I couldn’t conceive why God hadn’t saved my sweet boy. Weeks later the vet used a big word to identify the disease, saying something about fatality statistics for low birth weight kids, which meant nothing to me. All I knew was I missed my Hurley; my heart was broken.
My point in sharing this heart-rending story is in the weeks that followed Hurley’s passing, my Daddy would assure me with the history-makin’ words Jesus spoke in that field “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Future blessings are tough for a brokenhearted child to grasp. But from the vantage of advanced years, I can confirm Jesus’ words were true. I’ve loved and laughed much since I lost Hurley, though remembering his sweet spirit still brings a tear.
I also clearly remember from those painful days that I tucked closely under my Savior’s wing, grieving over my goat. Jesus was my comfort - my place of peace - and has always been in times of trouble. It was during those days I first memorized Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
It was that very verse that gave me my first acquaintance with what is now one of my favorite words: buckler. The thesaurus is rife with synonyms: defender, benefactor, advocate, guardian, champion, bodyguard, shelter, protector, keeper, shield, … I loved envisioning Jesus, like an eagle, flying over me, keeping close watch, ready to shield and protect me. I needed that reassurance in my time of grieving.
Oh mercy, that was a long detour from my main purpose of sharing with you what I learned this morning. You, too, are familiar with Jesus’ Beatitudes, right? His “blessed art thou” sermon? Blessed are the hungry, the meek, the sad. But do you know why they’re called the Beatutudes? Did you know beatitude is a word all by itself? Go ahead, go look it up in your own dictionary. I need to go blow my nose after all that rememberin’ about Hurley…
You see! There it is, right between beating and beatnik*. Beatitude – perfect happiness, blessedness, delight, contentedness, elation
Just like most things Jesus said and did, He’s claiming that sadness can bring happiness, hunger conjures filling, when you are weak, then you are strong. Seems upside-down, doesn’t it? I believe it all comes down to reliance on the Lord, regardless of your heartache or pain. I sure found that to be true with losin’ Hurley. Oh dear, that heartache was a hard time. But truly it taught me to cast my cares on my Father. While I lied in my bed, I cried out to Jesus. “Jesus, my heart hurts so bad I think I’ll die. Why didn’t you heal Hurley? Is he in heaven with you? Is his leg mended? Are there other kids for him to scamper with, now that he has four good legs?” I knew my Lord loved me, so he must love Hurley too. Thinking about him prancing around made my heart happy. So eventually – it took some time – I released Hurley into the arms of Jesus.
What is the source of your happiness? Is it faithful, or fickle? Are there circumstances that steal your joy? Can you imagine celebrating your trials, knowing they produce strength? Is there a loved one you need to release to the Lord? Let’s pray, shall we?
Gracious Father,Your thinking is surely confusing. You call us to be happy in those things that naturally make us glum. But that’s because You want us to garner our joy – contentment – peace – from our reliance on You, not on our kids of all kinds. Help us to make your Beatitudes – blessings – our delight.
*Beatnik – That sure does conjure up pictures of long-haired, paisley-clad, wantin’ to teach the world to sing hippies in the ‘60s. My daddy called them yippies.