If there's one thing Christians love, it's being blessed.
Our blessings usually come in the form of material goods or cold, hard cash. But if you do a quick search of hashtag/blessed, you'll find we also enjoy blessings of health, abundance of any form, good weather, good grades, good food, work promotions, winning games, sleeping babies, coffee, wine, narrowly averted disasters, and, better yet, other people's disasters -which remind us our lives aren't as nearly bad as that poor bastard over there. Other blessings include date night, gym time, nap time, quiet time, fishin' time, and any other time known as “His timing”.
What can I say? We are just so #blessed.
If you truly need something and then you get it? Congratulations, you've been #blessed! If you want something frivolous and it shows up? You're #blessed! If you achieve any sort of success, whether by effort or accident? #Blessed. If you experience something truly miraculous, like you survive a plane crash, or your Mom's advanced cancer disappears? Obviously, that's a huge #blessing! But if something super ordinary happens to you, like you give birth to a plain old healthy baby, or you're in a teeny tiny fender-bender where no one got hurt, or you hit every green light on your way to work? You're also very #blessed.
We get off on a good blessing! And because we aren't total a-holes, we love to pass our blessings along to others.
We actually go on mission trips specifically for the purpose of "blessing" other people. We gather our teenagers and soccer moms and we send them to third world countries to build shitty houses to bless the poor, and when the poor people ask why we've flown across the planet to visit for a week, we tell them it's because God loves them and wants us to bless them. When we get home from blessing 'the least of these' with a freshly painted whatever and an acknowledgement of their blighted human existence, the blessings abound evermore, as we say things like, “I think they blessed me even more than I blessed them.”
There are about 50 words and phrases I'd like to banish from the vocabulary of the North American Church forever and ever - 'missions/missional/missionary' and 'it's a God thing' among them - but way up there at the top of my list is the term “blessed”.
Bless. Blessed. Blessing... In the infamous words of the not-so-left-handed sword fighter, Inigo Montoya,
“You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I learned this the hard way (the day a gecko almost touched my lady business), but Blessed doesn't really mean what we think it means, because most of the time when we use the word blessed what we really mean is pleased.
“Dear internet, something pleasant has occurred which pleases me. #Blessed”
We've created a culture in which we measure God's “blessings” in terms of dollars and cents, comfort and pleasure, wealth and well-being. So, if we're happy and healthy and have everything we need, then we're blessed, and we should thank God on social media. We tend to ignore the secondary message this sends to those who are unhappy or unhealthy, or for whom things are just generally crappy. Too bad, so sad, if your life sucks, you're #NotBlessed. The third unintended takeaway we get when we slap the word "blessed" on every aspect of our own upward mobility is that God's blessings obviously belongs to the rich, and must be doled out to the poor as the rich see fit. The richer, the #Blesseder.
If you read the gospel of Facebook, you might be lead to think the blessed people among us are fulfilled, happy, whole, and satisfied. But according to Jesus, the opposite is true. The people Jesus calls blessed actually sound kind of miserable. And sad. And needy. Honestly? By today's standards, it sounds like the people Jesus tells us are blessed by God are more like cursed, and they definitely don't sound like they'd be hash-tagging their stuff #blessed.
You would never come across a status update that says, “Feeling lost and alone. I wonder if God is even listening. #PoorInSpirit #Blessed.”
Or like, “Terrible accident killed half my family. Funeral is Monday. #mourning #SoBlessed”
“Wish I could kick this effing porn habit. I want nothing more than to live a life that honors my spouse and my God and my covenant with them both. #Blessed and #desperateforrighteoussness.”
Maybe Jesus had no idea how uncomfortable it would make us to equate conditions like poor and meek and starving to being blessed. Or maybe he absolutely knew how hard it would be for us to grasp, because thousands of years ago the people who gathered on a hillside to hear him teach the beatitudes had already twisted God's blessing into material advancement and opportunities for personal gain. So Jesus, the very incarnation of God among us, was like, “Um. You keep saying this word, 'blessed'. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Because blessed does not mean pleased. Blessed does not mean happy. Blessed does not mean fulfilled. It doesn't even mean fed or clothed or housed or healthy...
What it really means is that you are not alone, for God is with you.
God's blessing is His presence.
Nothing more. Nothing less. …Just the Creator of the Universe, the artist and architect of Heaven and Earth, the Bringer of Light, the Weaver of Life, the One who knows you and loves you best of all, finding you in life's most broken places and breathing into your weary soul, “I am that I am, and I am with you.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Blessing of God is not what he gives us, the Blessing of God is that He is with us.
God's blessing is not beyond the reach of the poor, nor is it dependent on the generosity of the rich, it has not been withheld from the sick, and it is not departed from the lost or the hurting. In fact, it may be the only good and fair thing that exists in this world, an equal share granted to all; no matter our circumstance, no matter our sickness, no matter our sin, we are each the recipient of God's full and undivided attention, his blessing, for He is with us.
Every last one of us...
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
He holds you. He sees you. He loves you. And He is with you. For you, indeed, are #blessed.