By Minister Judy Stack
When I was young, the verse from the Beatitudes--"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"--captured my imagination an ended up shaping me in significant ways ever since.
When I was young, I took it as a sort of mystical promise: since one could not, under normal conditions, see God (or if you did, you would die), I took this as a promise that if I had a pure enough heart, I would get a mystical experience denied to most people. I wanted this.
As I got older and became both more suspicious of those youthful motives and also less convinced of the value of such a mystical experience, I took it to mean that those with a pure heart (that is whose who always acted from right motives and, to the best of their ability, did what was right) would "see God" in the sense of seeing God act on their behalf. God would "show up" for them. (Not much of an improvement really from the previous idea.)
Later, when I reject the idea of bargaining with God or getting things from God because you earned them (by a pure heart or whatever), I saw it as "those who are pure in heart will recognize the ways God is already all around them, the ways the Kingdom of God is coming in ways that most don't see." This is for sure an improvement, and it sounds very pious, but I'm not sure it's accurate to what Jesus meant.
So that's where I am now. I don't really know what this verse means. But it still sticks in my imagination in a way the other Beatitudes don't. It's still what I strive for every day, even though I'm old enough now to recognize that there are probably lots of times when my focus on a pure heart obscures my recognition of how grimy and self-serving and myopically deceived my heart is.
Still I can shake this vision, this goal. I don't know what it means to "see God"--I know it means something much more profound than just "I'll see God in heaven" or something--but it's still what I really want, even though I don't know what it is, and I want a pure heart. Maybe even just for its own sake. Because a pure heart would be worth having, no matter what you got for it. Maybe wanting a pure heart for its own sake is, a little bit, seeing God.