Thursday, February 5, 2015

In Response to a Query on “Blessings”

A friend of mine recently asked (on Facebook), “Christians (though non-Christians are welcome to be friendly contributors): Do we have any hope while living in this world? That is, does God promise any good while we're here? I understand 'in this world you'll have trouble,' but can we expect God's tangible goodness in the present?”

By the time I got around to this post, he’d already received several responses from some of his friends.

In response to one of those replies, my friend further commented, in part, “I mean, we're here now--we aren't later yet. And God has a plan in the present. Does His present plan include understandable blessings, or are all of His blessings retrospective (i.e. we only recognize them as blessings later)?”

Here, then, is my answer (which, characteristically for me, is MUCH too long for a Facebook comment):

* * *

If you're only looking for blessings in the past, you will find them. But that is all you will find: history. A nice story. Something you can read about and say "Isn't that nice" or “How special.”

Conversely, if you're looking for blessings in the future, you will never find them. This is because blessings aren't there. When you look to the future for blessings, you can't do this without having already decided what those blessings will be. "If I get a raise, that will be a blessing." "Wouldn't it be nice if I started dating a wonderful person." “All I need is that new car…”

Sure, a raise would be nice. And dating a wonderful person is a pretty great thing too. But these are blessings that you've pre-defined.

Isn't the point—at least, the point from a Christian perspective—to let God do the defining?

Since blessings, then, don’t have much to do with the past or with the future, they must be momentary. They must be here and now, now or never.

According to Luke’s writings, Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." He didn't say it was in us (past tense). He didn't say it will be in us someday (future tense). He used the present tense.

The kingdom of God is within us. Right now. As you read these words, the kingdom of God is within you.

Perhaps blessings are the same way. Perhaps all of the blessings of God are already within you right now.

What I mean is that, it seems to me, you choose what is a blessing and what is not.

Is having food on the table a “blessing”? – It is if you look at it that way.

Are having a loving family, a good job, or a roof over your head “blessings”? – They are if you look at them that way.

They say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and I’m quite certain that blessings are precisely the same.

In a letter to Revd. Dr. Trusler, dated August 23, 1799, William Blake said, "The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity … and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."

Similarly, some people see a sunset and think about how lovely it is that God put it there for us.

Other people see a sunset and think about how marvelous it is that all of the elements of the universe have coincidentally come together just precisely so, leading up to this moment where a rational human being with a seeing eye is able to be sitting here at all, contemplating this beautiful, happy accident.

Still others can’t be bothered to look at the sunset at all.

Who amongst these is the most blessed?

Feel free to answer differently if you’d like, but my answer is both persons 1 and 2, equally. And it has nothing to do with if one, either, or neither of them is a Christian. It only has to do with that person’s perception.

To take this a step further though—and an important step at that:

I said we “choose what is a blessing and what is not.”

But then again, maybe things are blessings not only if we choose to see them that way, but also perhaps they are only blessings if we treat them like they are.

Is having a wonderful spouse a “blessing”? – It is if you look at it that way, and if you treat him/her that way.

I will give you an example:

I used to very often pick fights with people in my mind. It's no surprise, then, that sometimes I would have tense moments with those people in reality. Of course I did. That’s how it goes. This was true of all my ex-girlfriends as well. You will not be surprised to hear that I used to fight with them constantly (yes, in reality).

When it comes to my wife, however, I make it a very conscious point to NEVER pick fights with her in my head. Never. We have been married for six years, together a total of almost eight. And we've been in maybe five fights. Ever.

I've had girlfriends that I've literally fought with more times in one day, than I've fought with my wife in eight years of a relationship.

Unmistakably, my wife is a blessing. But she is a blessing because I look at her like a blessing, and because I treat her like a blessing.

Does it matter, then, where the blessing came from? Does it matter if God played matchmaker and intentionally put Emily and I in a room together so that our sparks would fly, so that we would fall in love and create our beautiful little family?

How could that possibly be relevant?

For whatever reason—God or not—we were in that room together. For whatever reason—God or not—we started talking. For whatever reason—God or not—we started dating. Then we got married. Then we had our son Emerson.

And now, today—right here, right now—I am blessed.

So it is that no matter how these circumstances came about in the first place, I am blessed.

But remember that we choose what we see as a blessing. And remember that things are only blessings if we treat them that way.

And so, inevitably, the most important thing that’s left to say is this: no matter what is a “blessing” and what isn’t, no matter where—if anywhere—“blessings” come from, it is our job to keep the blessing going.

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