Saturday, 22 March 2014

The language of blessings

In the last while, I've seen a fair number of individuals post links on fb to a few different blog posts on the language of "blessings." The gist of these posts is that it's insensitive, and indeed problematic for us to attribute every good thing in our life to God blessing us. Throwing around that God has blessed me with a child, a house, a job, a parking spot, a particularly awesome piece of pizza, all seems to highlight the ways in which God has blessed me, in contrast to those who have not received those things. It can also further imply that God had some reason for blessing me, and not someone else. Which also implies that we have some control over these "blessings."

This kind of language can be very hurtful, I agree. It is not a couple's fault that they cannot conceive a child. They are not less worthy of being blessed. God is not angry at them. For the unemployed, it does not mean that God is not smiling upon them. And the fact that I have a job right now does not mean that I did something to deserve a blessing from God.

So does that mean we get rid of blessing language entirely? Or does it mean that we need to learn to think about blessings differently?

As I was driving along in my car today, after having signed a lease on a new place of residence. I was experiencing light, and life, and joy. I was feeling incredibly blessed. And I got to thinking about blessing language. Is there a difference between saying, I feel blessed to be moving into this house and, God has blessed me with a house? Is blessing about God doling out treats for good behaviour, or is feeling blessed an orientation of gratitude, a recognition through awareness of what in our lives is filled with light and life?

I'm only just beginning to contemplate this and I'm not sure of all the implications. Perhaps this way of speaking might be just as hurtful. I don't know. But I think it's worth considering. In part because it makes way for feeling blessed in ways that we might not expect. It leaves space for feeling blessed by the love and care we receive at a funeral, the gift of a wonderful nurse in the hospital, or even the loss of a job. Because who says, God blessed me by getting me laid off? And yet, are there not times in which we might feel blessed in a situation that we don't necessarily think of as joyful or positive at first glance?

To think about God's blessings as particular things or experiences (house, job, spouse, children, car), assumes that those things or experiences are always good, or good for us. It likely also means that we are thankful or live in gratitude only when we get those things. And yet, is it not vital for us to live with an awareness that even in the midst of trial, there is light? Is it not more life-giving to live in such a way that we are also keeping our eyes open for what brings joy?

That being said, thinking about blessings in terms of "feeling blessed," means thinking about blessings as the interpretation and the awareness of the individual or group. That means that those outside the individual or group, don't get to name the blessing. I cannot say that another is blessed if they have a zillion family members around them after the death of a spouse. For them, that might not be a blessing at all. It seems to me that feeling blessed, feeling God's light is something that we have to name for ourselves.  

And it seems to me, that if feeling blessed is something we name for ourselves, that means feeling sorrow is something that we can name as well. When I feel God's light, I can rejoice, not because God has thrown me a bone for fetching God's slippers, but because I am experiencing the joy and life that is part of the human experience. And then when I feel despair, I can lament, not because God has punished me, but because I am experiencing the pain of what it can mean to live in a broken world.

So, just some thoughts on the language of blessing (still in process, as always!)

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