When you think of a “blessing” what do you imagine? Is it a not so subtle sneeze and someone turning to say, “God bless you”? Perhaps your idea of a blessing is something more tangible. You see blessings as palpable things you’ve received from God in response to your prayers. On the other hand, a blessing may not be a discernible thing yet it’s still a visible response to God’s invisible presence. We have blessings for homes and babies. We bless those who coming and going. We are taught to see food as a blessing which is then blessed by those who eat the meal. There are blessings for living and those who are dying. The idea of blessing is interwoven in the very nature of our religious language. We speak in “blessing”. I wonder, do we know of what we speak and say? Do we understand what we’re talking about? I ask because it seems our ideas about blessings are all over the map.
What is a blessing? A blessing is more than a collection of inanimate words stitched together to invoke and animate God’s presence as in a magical spell. Blessings, whether between the sneezer and the responder or the diner and pork chops, are relationships. When we offer a blessing for ourselves or anyone else, regardless of the situation, we are expanding our existing relationship with God to include whomever or whatever we would like blessed. In effect, we are also creating a new relationship. Blessings expand our ability to share God’s presence with the world around us. Secondly, where nothing exists, our words carve space for God to create something from nothing.
A blessing is a “Big Bang moment”; where God’s goodness can expand (between strangers or friends) at light speed in a fraction of a second and alter the course a moment, hour, day, or even a life. Blessings are daily opportunities, simple verbal frameworks we help build. Within those outlines, God works with our relationships. This is why our language, our words, and the simplest, “God Bless You” isn’t solely about common courtesy. Blessings are the common theology which fuels the kingdom of God when government shuts down, spirits run low, cold weather goes long, and life feels too heavy to bear.
The greatest barrier to our ability to bless is our own imagination. God is our blessing partner. In the grand relationship we’ve built with God, the opportunities to bless our friends, neighbors, and communities are endless. Is there a place where God’s relationship circle can be enlarged to include someone else, either in word or deed? Yes! This is the basic blessing question. If you can tell someone they’re blessed, you’re also reminding them both you and God love them. Blessings are the visible signs of God’s love embodied in Christian community. Whether it’s clothing, food, or words; those signs are ours to carry.
Blessings can never be measured on a spreadsheet. While visible and real, they are not tangible items to be owned or displayed. Our blessings bring us together as a Christian community. They do not set us apart as individuals. Blessings lead to deeper relationships with God and each other. It’s not a blessing if what you perceive as being a blessing doesn’t draw you closer to God and other people. It’s not a blessing if, whatever “it” is; you can’t give “it” away. Blessings aren’t meant to be retained. Remember, there are no U-Hauls attached to the hearse.
Bless you! God Bless You! Be a blessing! May you be blessed! Share your blessings, a blessing, this blessing, with someone else. Expand your relationship with God by inviting someone else to share God’s blessings. Listen to those sneezing. Look for those crying. Notice the beauty around your feet. Bless them all! Go out with an open heart and a watchful reverence. See what blessings you encounter.
Richard Lowell Bryant