According to Soren Kierkegaard, purity of heart is to will one thing–God. He closes his book, Purity of Heart, with a prayer. Here is part of that prayer:
Father in Heaven! What is a man without Thee!
What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be,
but a chipped fragment if he does not know Thee!
What is all his striving, could it even encompass the world,
but a half-finished work if he does not know Thee:
Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all!
So may Thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing;
to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding;
to the will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing;
amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing;
in suffering, patience to will one thing .
Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion,
may Thou early, at the dawn of the day,
give to the young man the resolution to will one thing.
As the day wanes, may
Thou give give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution,
that the first may be like the last,
the last like the first in possession of a life that has willed only one thing.
“Whatever may disturb the purity of heart and tranquility of our mind, then, however useful and necessary it may appear, must be avoided as harmful,” said John Cassian in I.VII.1 of The Conferences which I began today.
The goal of our life is purity and in the end we receive eternal life says Cassian. He asks “What is your goal? What drives you to endure all these things so willingly?”
When I look at Paul’s single minded focus in Philippians 3 to which Cassian refers, I have some hard questions to face.
- Do I really believe that I need to avoid whatever would disturb my purity of heart and tranquility of mind? Answer: well, maybe
- Am I willing to do so? Answer: do I have to avoid all those things?
- Do I truly long for purity of heart? Answer: if I can keep holding onto a few distractions
- Do I have an divided heart? Answer: Sure sounds like it!
No coincidence that I am reading in Psalm 84 this week since verse 2 says, “My soul longs, yes faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Sounds like an undivided heart yearning for purity, doesn’t it? I seem to want my distractions more than purity.
- disordered desires
- pleasing other people
- fear and anxiety about the future
Many of us live lives of inconsistency
With divided loyalties
Distractions that lead us astray
From pure and simple devotion to Christ
Can I pray that God would give me the desire for a pure heart that the Psalmist had in Psalm 84. So that I may be a swallow finding my rest in you (3-4); that I may find my strength in you (6-7); that you may be my ambition (10) and sun and shield (11) and that I may believe, truly believe that you withhold no good thing from your people (11).
I find comfort in Colossians 3:13, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.” Seems to take the pressure off of me.
And then I read in Colossians 3 verses that seem to tell me what to do even with a divided heart
- Seek the things above 1
- Set my mind on things above 2
- Put to death what is earthly 5
- Put them all away 8
- Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience 12
- Put on love 14
- Let the peace of Christ rule 15
- Let the Word of Christ dwell in me richly 16
Christ is my life 4
My life is hidden with Christ 3
I am serving the Lord Christ 24
I will see an inheritance 24
Christ is in me, the hope of glory 1:27
And so, even with a divided heart, “I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (1:29).
I think I am safe in saying that very few in our world today understand the meaning or concept of chastity. I know that I didn’t before I read The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On by Dawn Eden. As Wikipedia says, chastity is often associated with abstinence, but that is an inadequate definition. Wiki say, “However, the term remains applicable to persons in all states, single or married, clerical or lay, and has implications beyond sexual temperance.” Since pure or purity might be a slightly better concept, I found this picture of pure water to go along with this post (I advise you not to search for a picture of chastity!)
I picked up this book after reading Eden’s blog and just finished the book this week. Eden suggests that chastity is “that virtue by which we are in control of our sexual appetite rather than it being in control of us. 14 She says.
Chastity is a lifelong discipline, based on the understanding of the nature of sexual intimacy—what sex is and what it’s for. Whether you practice chastity as a single woman (when it entails from sex) or as a married woman (when it entails love and responsibility), it bears the same spiritual fruit. 124
She write about sexual intimacy from the point of view of an single woman who is now on a journey of chastity since coming to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ about ten years ago. She came out of Jewish agnosticism and is presently involved in the Catholic church. Her blog is worth looking at on this topic. Although she is writing for single women, even this old married man learned some things that my wife has been trying to tell me for over thirty years!
A few quotes from the book
- Chastity is true-liberty—freedom from slavery to passions that are damaging or counterproductive. It’s also freedom to experience passions—by choice, and not by compulsion. 173
- All of sex I ever had—in and out of relationships—never brought me any closer to marriage or even being able to sustain a committed relationships ix
- Single women feel lonely because they are not loved, so they have casual sex with men who do not love them 2
- Sex outside of marriage—“acts becomes disconnected from its purpose”
- In attempting to escape from loneliness, we accept a sexual act devoid of spiritual nourishment 15
- Use your experiences of hunger or thirst or longing to lead you to God who really satisfies
- Before when I sought sexual experiences with men, it was as a distraction from the emptiness I felt inside 35
- Chastity Is “that virtue by which we are in control of our sexual appetite rather than it being in control of us. 14
- Chastity trusts God that as you pursue a closer walk with Him,” He will lead you to a loving husband xi