Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
In chemistry, the idea of purity is quite important. To be a pure substance, there can be only one substance. If you are a compound, only that compound is present. If you are an element, only that element is present. It is a somewhat impossible ideal, but a good concept. Purity of heart is also difficult for us to achieve, particularly in this world where the ding of a text or the vibrate of an e-mail intrudes on even the quietest of events.
Nature has always been one of the places where I experience what I consider to be purity of heart—while others find those moments to be associated with food or with church or a variety of other experiences. With all of these, cell phones and the need to capture the moment digitally are among the pernicious monsters that threaten to rob us. However, even to an introvert like me, the common element to a pure-of-heart experience is friends. To illustrate, I reflect on a fantastic experience hiking a mountain we didn’t intend to hike.
My husband Keith, our friend Mike, and I are set for a day of hiking in the early spring. We drive east of Reno on Interstate 80 and venture off at a planned but not well known exit. After driving north for a bit, we park and get out of the truck. We put on our coats, hats, and backpacks loaded with water, gaiters, and food. After some pointing and map consultation, we venture up the side of the mountain, forging our own path.
At this point in our lives, we’re in decent shape and can hike mountains at about 1,000 vertical feet per hour on most hikes. So we figure a couple hours to the top where we’ll have lunch. About a third of the way up, we realize we need to bear right to get to the peak we think is the highest. About halfway up, we run into some spring snow drifts and put on our gaiters and snow pants. Chatter is light. Sky is a beautiful spring blue. Sunshine a perfect apricity. We can see for miles across undeveloped land. There is so much nothing that we can tell people haven’t walked where we are walking in years.
About two-thirds of the way up, we hit some sizable drifts and realize there is a giant canyon between us and the goal peak. The drifts start to become giant, too. We are wading through snow deep enough to the reach our pants pockets now. (Should have brought the snowshoes.) But we are having a great time. We love the fact that we are not going to get to our destination. We are laughing loudly about the snow creeping up towards the top of our pants. We christen the place ‘Nut Pass’ and eat a delicious lunch cooked on a small stove, sitting on some rocks cleared of snow.
In that moment, we were fully present.Our hearts were pure. We had no care for the driving of cars, the achievement of dreams, the making of money, the garnering of knowledge, or the keeping track of anything. Yes, God was present through nature, but that is not where I saw divinity. Purely in the moment of undistracted friendship, that is where I saw God. There was no inherent beauty in the situation, and I can’t recreate it. But I can pursue moments of new purity. Purely with you. Purely seeing God present in us all.
In this season of renewal of commitments and discarding of baggage, I ask myself how I value my friendships? Do I give my friends the space, time, and moments to be pure of heart? For I am convinced that only in the purity of presence with friends will I see God.