The promises of the Beatitudes are more thrilling than any other eight consecutive verses of Scripture I can think of. What can be better than to own the kingdom of Heaven? To be comforted by God? To inherit the Earth? To be filled with goodness? To be shown mercy? To see God? To be identified as God's own child? To be be greatly rewarded in the kingdom of Heaven? Yet the beatitudes teach us the path to ascend the mountaintops lies through the valley, because this is the starting point all humanity shares. The word translated "salvation" in the New Testament comes from a root word that means "freedom." Freedom implies movement and action, not stasis. In the Beatitudes, Christ frees us to grow, to progress, and to fight the good fight against our enemies within, liberating ourselves one by one from the obstacles that encumber us. Our spiritual journey is not complete as long as we are still alive, so we go on placing one foot before the other.
Although I would love to say I'd been with Rich Mullins every step of the way, I wasn't. Our lives led in very
different directions, but still it was my friend Richard who first taught me the Beatitudes. Some of our best conversations centered on the topic. I was a new Christian, and though I've sometimes strayed and sometimes stagnated since then, this is the map of the journey that has unfolded for me over time. I have learned through my own mistakes that neither a milestone of spiritual growth, nor a fall from grace entitles us to abandon the pilgrimage and take up occupancy in self-satisfaction or stagnation. Not that growth is required before we can be saved, but because growth is the purpose for which we were saved. It is for freedom: for movement: for the journey, that Christ has set us free.
I find myself often affirming that we loved to argue, just to clarify that I don't pretend to speak on Richard's behalf. We had our own perspectives about spiritual matters, but we each found through our discussions a synthesis leading to greater understanding, as though by juxtaposing our ideas we could come up with something neither of us had thought of before. Everyone who knew Richard well knew he had a great gift
of connecting with others in this way. Yet we both agreed that as freely as our words may flow, the Beatitudes will transform us only when we pour our lives into them. You will find in Walk Through the Valley my best
memories of conversations and events that led me to a deeper grasp of what Richard thought of the Beatitudes, and how he lived them out.