How is it possible to have a pure heart in the middle of the competing demands on our attention every day, most of which are necessary or good?
Is a pure heart really possible in the twenty-first century? There’s a fascinating biography in the Old Testament that describes this spiritual possibility. The story of this man’s life is told in only six verses, the first four being in Genesis 5. “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.
Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:21-24).1
Imagine having that kind of longevity! There’s a guy with good genes! Of course, according to Bible history, people in those days lived a long time. Consider that his son Methuselah lived for 969 years—but that is another story. The point is, life was very long in those days. So imagine the dynamics of trying to live a spiritual, God-connected life for that long. As the story states about Enoch, there were several “modern-day” realities he faced during his life.
He had family obligations as a father and husband. So you know his life was filled with things screaming for his attention every day. Also, he lived at a time when the world was incredibly evil. In fact, the next story (Genesis 6) goes on to describe the world being so wicked that God has to step in and intervene, lest the population destroy itself. So you can imagine Enoch’s long life filled with all kinds of attention-getters beckoning for his heart and mind.
The New Testament speaks of Enoch this way: “Before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). How did Enoch please God? Was he completely sinless in his life, never making any mistakes or having any failures so that God was happy with him? The next verse puts it this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
In other words, the secret to Enoch’s walk with God, his spirituality, is that he learned how to place God in the center of his heart. He was willing to place his trust and belief in God. He truly wanted to find God and enjoy his relationship with God. The fact that the original story in Genesis uses the word “walked” with God implies going on a journey with God. In other words, Enoch takes God with him into every aspect of his life. Everywhere Enoch goes, God goes with him. Enoch is conscious of God in everything he does. Enoch believes that God is real and so places God at the center, allowing that priority to affect every other demand on his life. As the story suggests, Enoch was drawn into a closer relationship with God in the midst of being a father. He was able to use his family relationships to remind himself about God.
Those who are parents understand this potential dynamic. As you watch your children grow, and as you feel your own tenderness in your heart for your children, you can’t help
being in awe of the experience of unconditional love. You recognize how much you value and love your children, no matter what they do. And as you see how resilient children can be—even when you might be unloving toward them at times, they bounce back in love toward you—their unconditional love melts your own heart. The possibility of understanding God’s unconditional love increases and grows.
So it’s possible, little by little, to use our natural family relationships (or loving, trusting relationships with significant others) to point our own hearts toward God, to let our own hearts be melted by the love and grace of God. When we make those deliberate connections between the earthly and the divine, our loyalty and attention to God can be strengthened and purified; we become more undivided and single-minded.
Also, according to one author, Enoch’s walk with God often involved a need to withdraw by himself for a time (from the midst of his busy domestic and professional life) in order to regain perspective. He felt a hunger and thirst for quality time alone with God. So he would take mini-retreats into the mountains to redirect his attention to God.
Jesus did the same thing often. After hours of interacting with and helping people, He would withdraw into a quiet place to be in solitude with God. He would often spend whole nights in prayer and meditation by Himself. This example has been emulated by spiritually inclined people all through the centuries. So Enoch’s walk with God involved the same retreats.
In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen G. White says that He would emerge from these sanctuaries in time strengthened and empowered to pour His energies into His family and the people He felt called to share God’s love with.
So there are two simple ways in which Enoch learned how to walk with God and keep his heart undivided and focused in the middle of conflicting demands, using everyday life to point him to God and develop his spirituality.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” You see only what you have in your heart. Only those who are willing and intentional about minimizing the many distractions for the heart, only those who are disciplined enough to focus their attention on God, only those who are willing to be single-minded in their passion to grow their spirituality, those are the ones who experience the depth of life, the divine encounter, God in the heart.2