Monday, December 20, 2004

God bless us, every one

Are you about sick of the word "blessings" right now?

I mean, come on, how many stinking more letters am I going to have to read in which the author regales me with all the blessings in her life, the blessing of family coming for Christmas and the blessing of the new car and the blessing of the dog being run over by the car because didn't that just make us all realize how precious life really is?

Are all these things blessings? It's not unlike blaming God for bad things that we spend too much time thinking God has rained down blessings?

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that God isn't about blessing every one of us every single day. But I worry about assigning that term to such mundane occurances as finding your keys or eating a sandwich or even getting that new car... Aren't we then reinforcing the (unconscious) idea that God is some kind of cosmic vending machine?

When we say that we're blessed what we mean is that we're happy. But usually we're happy because something earthly, something appealing to our temporal selves, something shiny or tasty or debt-relieving has come into our lives. And I'm not entirely sure God wants to be known as simply a source of these blessings. I think he expects more of us. I think he wants more of us.

And I think he wants to give us more.

And anyway, what happens when the happiness is gone? Who does God become then?
(in the interest of full disclosure, I sent out a card that closed with "Christmas Blessings"...and I've heard it drip off my lips like so much candy cane drool way too many times in the last few days)


Anonymous said...

I think I understand how you feel. I have an acquaintance who talks (constantly) about how good God is to her and about all the blessings in her life. Pretty much down to finding her lost car keys. But I'm not ready to give up the word "blessings." For me, blessings are what happens when life gives us lemons and we make lemonade. I call them blessings because I think it is through whatever virtues God has given me that I am able to make the lemonade.
PS - I made the anonymous comment to your last post that wished you a "lovely Christmas and blessings in the new year." Hope you're able to make that lemonade.

seeker said...

I do think that you're right about some people - they go overboard. There is a point to recognizing our own effort and work. So, I suppose that possibly one could talk about the abundance in life or gifts instead of blessings - some of which are given to us & some of which we create.

Sometimes things such as seeing the sunlight of a late December afternoon grabs me because of the beauty of it.... Anyway, here's a poem I have been working on (and, yes, I use that over used word as the title, and, yes, I know it needs work):


a warm bed
on a cold night,
a hot shower,
clothes, food, a home

the earth smell of spring,
the crisp, untempered light of October,
the snuffle of a horse
into your hand

these are among the
seemingly small,
but immeasurable,
gifts of life

take account of these things

I don't think a balanced focus on the gifts of life is a bad thing. And, after all, isn't the line in the song "...from whom all blessings flow."

Mark Pritchard said...

I was thinking the other day about how Thomas Merton, in his early journals (before the 60s), often spoke of "receiving consolations" -- moments of joy and even pleasure in the beauty of the liturgy, of nature, and other things. The attitude he reflected in the 1940s and early 50s journals, especially, was that life in the monastery was going to be somewhat of a slog but God would see fit to give him "consolations" from time to time. I see such a contrast between this attitude and the ubiquitous-blessings attitude.

Anonymous said...

Precisely! When I lived in the South, "blessed" was a common answer to the question "How are you?", and it took me a while to figure out why I didn't like it. Finally I realized that saying "blessed" when all you really mean is "happy" suggests that people who are unhappy -- like that music director you mention in the post below this one -- are not blessed. Actually, of course, we're all blessed, all the time; it's just that when we're happier, it's easier to see the blessings. (Do you know the Dar Williams lyrics that are going through my head right now? "It's not a release, it's not a reward, it's the blessings.") Merry Christmas to you. -- Liddy (