I’m always taken aback when something like Don Clymer’s book jolts me into realizing just how enmeshed I have become in a culture which barely needs the Beatitudes. Our pockets and our minds are full to overflowing. Reading the Beatitudes then becomes a sort of academic exercise and/or a checklist for making us feel better about ourselves.
Clymer vividly defines the Beatitudes through approaches that open new circuits of thought. Because of the way he interweaves other cultures into the picture, he helps us recognize our cultural blinders and encourages us to take them off. Clymer’s passionate insights override the miasmic spirituality of a prosperous society. The poignant stories which begin each chapter abruptly shift us out of our comfort zones, much like when someone jumps off the other end of a see-saw. Suddenly we force-land and take a long, hard look at what just happened.
My hunger and thirst for righteousness grew the further I went in the book. I found myself a sort of “Zaccheus”—wanting to rush ahead to climb a tree and actually see Jesus. Each chapter focuses on one of the Beatitudes along with a story which in each case shed new light for me. Living the Beatitudes, as Clymer puts it, teaches us “to walk in the light of Christ and . . . transform our impure impulses into life-giving action.” I welcomed the invitations to explore my own heart and experiences to understand those areas in which I need enlightenment, confession, or healing. The meditations invite all of us to “come down” and “dine” with the Holy Spirit who can change our course.
Clymer’s meditative style gives us ample time to truly explore our inner spirits where we, like him, have concocted a safe world for ourselves. His deeply personal and honest reflections give us permission to look at ourselves with the same depth of scrutiny he uses and not be overcome by what we find. I am struck by the intensity of feelings he brings to this study. Just when I feel like I need to come up for air, he suddenly opens the door to immense gratitude—despite confusion or frustration or hopelessness. It feels like a gift. And that, I think, is what the Beatitudes are all about!
Clymer’s life-changing experiences are evident in his everyday life and not just on paper. We have walked together as church friends for years, and I have witnessed his ability to live with the discomfort and frustration of knowing several cultures very well and being able to move back and forth between them. That has its hurdles, and yet he continues to accept the challenge of loving we “middle-classers” and educating a whole new generation of students who pick up the truths of the Beatitudes more from his actions than his words.
Exploring the Beatitudes at an intercultural level lends a measure of hope and joy in the human resiliency which God has instilled in his children all over the world. If we are special, it is not because of our uniquenesses but our sameness with even the most broken and wretched of the earth. This book delves into that mystery and helps us take it to heart.
—Leanne Eshleman Benner, Harrisonburg, Virginia, works at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community as a Resident Services Manager
Copyright © 2011 by Cascadia Publishing House LLC