Quote of the Day

Photo Thanks to Ian Schneider

Photo Thanks to Ian Schneider

I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Henri Nouwen (Life of the Beloved, 67):

It is remarkable how easy it is to bless others, to speak good things to and about them, to call forth their beauty and truth, when you yourself are in touch with your own blessedness. The blessed one always blesses. And people want to be blessed! This is so apparent wherever you go. No one is brought to life through curses, gossip, accusations or blaming. There is so much of that taking place around us all the time. And it calls forth only darkness, destruction and death. As the “blessed ones,” we can walk through this world and offer blessings. It doesn’t require much effort.

 

 

Advent Post #16

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her! (Luke 1:45)

It takes guts to believe in God. It takes more guts to believe that God, who exists, makes promises, and then, even more courage to believe that God makes promises to you.

After all that, to think that God would make and fulfill them! Eventually your beliefs are tested. Eventually what you’ve held close to your heart about God’s words and God’s ways are tested.

Sometimes when life tests our beliefs, those beliefs fall apart. They are too weak for real life. We find that they lack truth, that they cannot stand under the test of reality. We conclude, in a manner of speaking, that we were disillusioned to have believed what we did, that we were off, or that God, simply, was not trustworthy.

When we say that we were disillusioned to have believed, we check ourselves and attempt to modify our beliefs, try to speculate faithfully by studying in order to come up with something else.

If we say after that test that we were at fault, we try to change ourselves to fit what has to be the real God reality. I was wrong, not God, so in order to keep an intact faith, I change.

In the third option, where we conclude that God was untrustworthy, we decide and, sometimes painfully, to walk away from God. We tell ourselves and others that the God we thought was ‘in charge’ was a portion of our imaginations and that there really can’t be a God.

In all three instances, we relate to God because of some thing, some test, some examination of our deeply held beliefs. We aren’t always in touch with our beliefs. Usually we learn what we believe when those beliefs are challenged or up-heaved or undone.

Whatever category or line of thinking you may be in relation to God (and I don’t put you in these as much as I offer them as possible categories for this post), I wonder if you can consider that you are, right in that category, blessed. Whether you love or hate God. Whether you even believe in God. Whether you sympathize with people you see as religious because you pity us.

Can you stretch into the word blessed? Henry Nouwen talks about the meaning of “blessed” in his book Life of the Beloved, and he says that it’s essentially about good speech. To say that we are blessed is to say that somebody says good things about us. Can you hear that, that someone speaks well of you? I’d suggest that the person saying good things about you and me is God.

We are blessed and some of us because we believed. We did believe, even if we’ve diminished some of those beliefs. We did believe, even if we walked away. Indeed, one of the most remarkable claims about our blessedness is that we are blessed. Without regard for right beliefs and even right acts. Sure, this verse seems to run counter since Mary is heralded for believing in the promise. But the verse doesn’t spread across the entirety of her life.

It doesn’t spread into those nights of doubt when she thought Jesus was just an ordinary kid or those mornings when she was pissed because he said something about having a new mother and a new family, kicking her to the curb. This particular verse is about her pregnancy and her willingness to bear a son. The blessing, though, is a comment about what God always thought of her and what God would, in the future, think of her. Her and you. Her and me.

 

Advent Post #13

“In a loud voice she exclaimed…” (Luke 1:42)

Imagine that this was the first reaction Mary had to her news about being pregnant. We do not know if it was. But it is realistic that young Mary could travel on the basis of visiting her kin and not raise eyebrows. She didn’t have to reveal her news to anyone just yet. Plus, with Elizabeth’s own pregnancy, the two shared a kind of bond that was unrepeatable.

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed the historical words which frame prayers and blessings of many Christians: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” You are blessed and your child is blessed.

What a remarkable thing to say to mothers and their children. You are favored and your child is favored. I wonder if this can be the pronouncement that we give when new parents and children come into our lives. Can we say, against our better judgments and against our cynicism, you are blessed?

It would force us to see beyond the current reality. It would push us by our junk and the junk piles of others until we saw something more. We’d have to see other visions to say these words, but they are words worth saying.

When I look at children, I often want to school them, tell them what they need to hear, what risks they ought to measure, how they ought to ready themselves for the cruelties of life. When I see my son, Black gold that he is, I want to protect him by telling him in advance that being a Black boy will bring hardship. I have to train myself to say what Elizabeth said. I have to try to see blessing as part of the picture. And yet it is so much of what Advent is.

It takes the Spirit to utter these words, and it takes the Spirit to yell them. You are more than your condition. You are more than surroundings. You have come from the grandest memory of God, and what you bring into the world is kissed with beauty and divinity and holiness. You are favored, spoken well of by angels and their Creator. Why would you think less of yourself? Why would you put yourself low or think yourself shunned? You are loved, have been loved, and always will be loved. It is an honor to know you!

I wonder if words like Elizabeth’s can become a portion of our statements to the children on our blocks, in our communities, and around our places of business. I wonder if when we see them, we can train ourselves in the mind of Elizabeth, be filled enough with Spirit, to utter or proclaim, “You are amazing. You will be amazing.” And then, all the other similar words will come and keep coming.

I can hope.