In the last few months I have developed a complicated relationship with the word blessed. This bracelet that I often wear has the words, thankful, grateful and blessed. I have no problem with thankful and grateful, and the bracelet encourages and reminds me to accept and reflect on these gifts. But I am having more problems with the word blessed. If I have been blessed — and looking objectively at my life I can say that I have been given a life that has had many blessings, a loving family, a church life and faith, a good education, friends, a wonderful husband, a job I enjoyed and economic security. But to me blessed also seems to imply in some way that those blessings have been given because of some action on my part. That I have done something to deserve them. I find that hard to accept, there are so many in the world that apparently have not been blessed but I know their lives have been lived in honor to God and they are people of faith and belief. Is my life “blessed” just because of my race, social and economic status? As I began working through these thoughts it occurred to me that I was perhaps looking at blessed in too narrow and culturally centric view. Did I believe as do those into prosperity gospel that blessings come down to economics? Did I believe that my familial status was preferred and what others wanted? Was I unwilling to look at what blessings were in new ways? So my query is what does it mean to be blessed?
In conversation with my brother I also thought about the other aspects of blessings, that is to be the one blessing others. With this thought I began thinking about what I do that offer blessings to others, what in my actions and life can bring blessings to others. As we say it is better to give than to receive is it also better to be a blessing that to be blessed. Can the act of blessing others be in some ways that best way of being blessed? So my next query for myself is What is God calling me to do to bring blessing to others?
As I contemplated that and did a little research on the concept of blessed and blessing I also began thinking about the gift of blessing that is defined by the verbal and occasionally physical offering of support. One definition of blessing is
BLESSING. Blessing is one of the most common religious acts in all belief systems. Blessing nurtures hope and wards off fear; it is a companion and assurance in time of peace and a consolation and hope in time of crisis.
The act of blessing forms a bond between the supreme beings and the faithful. The contents of blessing reveal the hopes and fears of humankind.
When we offer a benediction, it is a blessing of the congregation; when we pray or offer comfort, we are offering a blessing to others and calling upon God to protect, comfort and support each other. With words we can give hope and encouragement and invoke God’s presence. With that in mind I would like to offer to you today some blessings that might help us get through these times of uncertainty, political unrest and unprecedented events. One of my favorite books is John O’Donohoe’s To Bless the Space Between Us: a book of blessings. I have chosen three blessings that I would like to share with you today.
The first is entitled For one who is exhausted. I think that with the ramifications of COVID and our current status, it is easy to be emotionally, if not physically, exhausted and this blessing speaks to that.
For one who is exhausted
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells within slow times.
The next blessing is called for the Interim time. We are caught up in a time when we don’t know what the future will look like, we are unsure of what direction our lives will take; this blessing speaks to that.
For the interim time
When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.
In this wan, light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of dark.
You are in the time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.
The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.
You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
There is no mirror.
Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your way through.
As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.
What is being transfigured here is your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival is the new dawn.
The last one is called Blessing for Citizenship. It seemed particularly relevant in light of our political situation.
In these times when anger
Is turned to anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and mountains,
Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.
They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From aluminum economic ground,
The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.
The industry of distraction
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.
We have become converts
To the religion of stress
And its diety of progress;
That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger
How to find our way home.
So as we enter into more time of silence in the Quaker tradition, let us accept the blessings that have been offered and contemplate what we can do as individuals and as a community to be a blessing to others.
This message was given to Spokane Friends by Linda Pierce during Sunday worship service on September 28, 2020.