We use both the act of blessing and the language of having been blessed often in the church: we invite God's blessing at moments of special transition, like birth, baptism and marriage, or sending and commissioning. We bless our offerings and meals and at the start of school we blessed backpacks (photo above). We say we have been blessed when life seems to being going right. But for me at least this language had gotten almost cliche.
A few weeks ago, though, we encountered the story of Jacob. With Jacob, blessing is a struggle. Blessing doesn't always come in the form of what feels good and blessing doesn't always come automatically or with gracious words. Blessing can be messy. Sometimes we need to demand it of God, just as Jacob did. I won't let you go until you bless me! Bless me, God! It is in our greatest struggle that we are most desperate for the real and living presence of a God who names us and calls us precious.
I'm figuring out that we cannot bless ourselves. But we can ask for blessing. Blessing happens in relationship - always with the Divine and often in human relationship. It is something we do for each other. It is something that God offers to us without our intercession and which we can offer on God's behalf. This has been a time of many transitions and changes in the congregation. Emotions run high and leadership has been listening carefully, committed to the work of spiritual discernment. I carry the weight of this and I have soaked up blessing at every opportunity when it is conferred upon me.
Pat Shaver recently wrote a beautiful and I think much longed for blessing to the members of Spiritual Leadership Team and to pastors. My correspondence with her subsequently has also helped me understand that we receive and experience blessing in prayer so much differently than when we pray intercession. "God help Amy with the struggle she is having" is a prayer I experience as begging God, a tugging on God's hem, working God. How much more full is the experience of praying over or with the struggling one, "I bless you with God's gracious presence in the face of struggle. I bless you with wisdom and strength and the fullness of God's discerning Spirit." In doing so we open a window into the heart of God, into what God already longs for and desires for us. I feel I can release myself into blessing in a way that is totally different from the pleading of intercession.
|I think the one on the right is Jesus.|