I Am Blessed

fullsizerender-4For so many years I attributed my good fortune to being blessed. My Christian heritage gave me the building blocks to how I saw blessing as a natural consequence of being a good disciple.

If I was blessed then the implication was that I was actively ‘being’ blessed. It was the subtle intentionality behind the action that I missed for so many years. Was God pulling levers to give me an even better life than I already had? I started to think deeply about my own life and eventually understood that on a global scale, my life was full of privilege, not blessing.

Every time I attributed God for my nice car, house, talent, job and so on, I was in fact unintentionally acknowledging that God may have been more pleased with me than a poor person on the other side of the world. But then… I met the people on the other side of the world. I soon realised I was the poor one in spirit and had a deficit in compassion. It was then I came to the belief there was no truth to the version of ‘blessing’ many in the modern Christian movement had taught and embraced.

If I believed that God was blessing me then I had to accept that God was ‘not blessing’ the refugee or the 10 year old sold to slavery or the Syrian whose life has been permanently scarred.

Christians often talk about the positive fruit in someones life as evidence of virtuous decisions. If I truly take account for my inner thoughts, living in Australia has made me more selfish. The lengths I would go to to protect my ‘blessing’ is troubling. No… I don’t want to give up my wealth and have it evenly distributed around the world, it would leave me with nothing… like my ‘unblessed’ brothers and sisters.

imagesI don’t believe that my privileged life is a blessing or a sign of God’s reward. It is pure luck. I know that if rewards for virtuosity were real, many others would be blessed before I was. There are many fathers in the third world that make more courageous decisions on a daily basis than I could ever hope to make.

Yes, I am troubled by my casual response to a privileged life. I don’t think our quality of life is because God likes you or me more than the 10 year old suffering in extreme poverty and agrees that we need even more.

My material ‘blessings’ in life have not made me a better person – the hardships have. It would be fair to ask then, if God was genuinely interested in my character, would he be the one responsible for giving me lots of stuff?

The ONLY things that have made me a better person are the challenges I have had to wrestle with – particularly the ones I have to wrestle with in the quiet moments when no one hears my pain. Many of my readers will know I have a daughter with a severe disability. It has been the most disturbing journey I have ever ventured on when it comes to my faith. It has equally been the most life changing and character building journey I have been on.

So these days I don’t ask for blessing because I know what it is. It’s not a new house or a third investment property – that is just the lucky draw. Being blessed is more likely the carriage of grief and pain. I know it will be unlikely that you will hear this from a platform at church on a Sunday because there is nothing fun or motivating about that message – I think that is a shame.

Yes I am blessed, but not because I can pay a bill without wondering where the funds will come from, but because the dark days have rewarded me with a more compassionate heart and a sobered mind, yet both are still under major construction. Yes indeed, I am blessed.

12 thoughts on “I Am Blessed

  1. Hey my friend
    Stirring stuff as always
    It’s been a while since I subscribed to any westernised notion of blessing.
    For right or wrong my thoughts have lead me to explore that grace is a rather narrow ledge to walk on.

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    • Hey Mic Mac. Great to hear from you again. Must do t in person sometime. I too haven’t subscribed to this idea of blessing for a very long time but every now and then I catch myself when a subtle presumption sneaks in. It is the legacy of decades of teaching – much of it indirect suggestions or loose comments about God blessing me whenever something good happened. Odd things like the prayer of Jabez and more common things like teaching on giving in many churches, often comes with the expectation that you will get something from it. I’m not sure a generous spirit ever has expectations attached. Thanks for your thoughts mate

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      • Have been thinking about this topic quite a bit lately
        Mostly I’ve been wondering about what blessing actually is (if it’s not God induced favour)
        I was at a wedding on Saturday where one of the speeches invoked “blessing” on the couple
        I have not long written a song that speaks of me not being able to count my blessings because they outnumber my days
        The question I’m wrestling with is whether we can substitute a euphemism called blessing in without confusing what may or may not be happening in the heavenly realm?
        For e.g. I genuinely feel humbled at the fortunate life I’ve had, my health, the country I’ve grown up in, the wife I’ve had for 36+ years, the 4 beautiful children I have, the ability to express myself musically etc
        I often sum this up as being blessed. But never far from such an statement is the unspoken next sentence that says “there but for the Grace of God go you or I”, also a flawed statement
        Flawed as both of these are, they do go some way to summing up the human condition that wants to proclaim something about recognising that something greater than your own ability has conspired to affect the outcome. I think that to qualify this as blessing, each individual must go the next step and make a choice about what they do with that favour
        All of the above are imperfect and incomplete thoughts; be that as it may, they represent where your article has lead me

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  2. I have always believed this, but have never been quite sure if what I felt was right or not, because Christians keep saying the other. But I have always cringed inside when people say I’ve been so blessed with this or that, or a good situation, because I would think, does that mean that God does not like the ones who aren’t ‘blessed’,? and I just can’t see God ever being like this, and having favourites.

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    • Hi Catherine. I think you are on the right path. I haven’t resolved everything but I am happy to sit in the tension for now and avoid the temptation to resolve it prematurely. You are right, something doesn’t quite seem right and that should slow us down enough for us to think.

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  3. Mate been thinking about your article. I really like your concept of privilege versus blessing. There’s only one problem. Is there scope in your thinking for God to bless people individually for their obedience? I understand that comparing a western christian living in a developed world to a person living in southern India brought up in a Hindu family at the bottom of the caste system brings up some major dissonance in my thinking re the blessing of God and its apparent unfairness. But I can’t avoid the fact that blessing is a reality and it’s not universal other than God making the sun rise on the wicked and the righteous equally etc. Because if it was then that would be unfair as well. Now if you’d made the comparison between non-believers in both countries then there wouldn’t be an issue at all. As soon as you bring God into the equation it starts to get a bit messy, although I still think your original premise is really helpful.

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    • Hi Dermot.
      Apologies for not getting on to this earlier. I write for a living but I only get to my own projects on occasion – which is frustrating.

      Firstly I am not a theologian although all my theologian friends say everyone is a theologian! I’m probably more a philosopher. So when I think about these types of challenges I am mindful of what theology I am familiar with, but I also allow myself to be tempered by my environment. I personally think that one of the biggest mistakes the modern church makes is projecting a stubborn legalistic view regardless of what the environment says. You would know that swabs of ideas that were relevant and spiritually sound years ago have been tempered by modern thinking and we no longer suppress woman or condone slavery etc, etc…

      So when it comes to a theology on how God may or may not bless us, I have to let the environment mess with me. The reason this blog has resonated with a few people is because many in the church are listening to their environment and there is a dissonance… and it is becoming louder.

      The people I admire are those left with nothing on this earth but had a determined resolve to be faithful regardless of the challenge they faced. Jesus was a perfect example of that. After spending time in third world countries, it has become an uncomfortable posture for me to expect more. I feel ashamed to even ask. I hope the churches that teach excess would feel the same in the future.

      I think any theological idea has to be balanced with the overall sentiment of the bible and what the environment says. If we chose to regard blessing as a sound principle, then we have to wrestle with the rest of Jesus’ powerful examples – like looking after the widow, giving to the poor, or even more provocatively, giving up all your belongings and following him. Asking for more blessing in contrast with giving up all your belongings is polarising and wisdom has to moderate the chasm – there is no room for a legalistic theological view unless we deny one principle or the other.

      Change is messy and uneven. When you base your life on a particular belief and hope, it is very difficult to let it go – everyone is trying to ignite hope in their life. Why wouldn’t we gravitate to an idea that if we are faithful our bills will get paid or we may experience a lucky break. It makes Christianity a very easy sell. When evangelism is such an important part to the modern expression, leaning into the idea of exclusive benefits is much easier to pitch than a life of challenge and trouble. The challenge is most of the world has trouble, we are a tiny percent of the global population that lives with relative extravagance, I am convinced that you and I didn’t earn that luxury.

      I would still say my true blessing is how my heart is softening. It has never been stuff – stuff has done more harm to me than good. If God truly wanted to bless me with more I would ask him why when there are others that are hanging on a thread. It is a small start and maybe hypocritical, I still live in excess. The kind of excess we want is not even sustainable on this planet. If every one became middle class with the current population, we would need 3 earths to accommodate. Something has to give.

      I feel torn because I don’t want to give up what I have – I have children to think about too. So for me on this day, I don’t expect God to bless me with more stuff. But if my heart changes, then the world will be a far better place. My heart will only change if I look outward and let myself be messed with. That’s all I know how to do for now.

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      • I understand the challenge of walking down streets in the developing world and wondering why I was so lucky to have been born in Australia and I think everyone needs to experience the uncomfortableness of that personally.

        My thinking is that if love is your overarching and underpinning motive, which as followers of Jesus it should be, then having more gives you an opportunity to give more? And therefore if we’re in a position of privilege we then have a responsibility to be a “blessing” to others with the wealth, power and opportunity we’ve been given. That’s the Christian way.

        Saying that Christians teach a simple, come to Jesus and all will be well, type of evangelistic message is probably not quite true though. Most of the teaching that I’ve heard has been more along the lines of, “In this world you will have heartache and pain, but take heart for I have overcome the world.” (Jesus) I’m not saying that people don’t “hear” a more “me” centred message, because lets face it, our greatest struggle is with self and we all listen subjectively depending on our own current pain or perspective, but I’m not sure that’s actually what’s being taught in the majority of churches.

        I think it’s great to be messed with in our heads and hearts and I think your perspective on privilege is actually quite liberating. I’m not sure that swinging totally the other way is necessarily the best solution though. I think that maybe concentrating on what it means to truly love others will help solve our fixation with stuff and also aid in the redistribution of stuff to those with less stuff. It seems to have been Jesus’ aim in his teaching. Get people to love and the other stuff sorts itself out. Easier said than done I know. I’ve been chasing this particular holy grail for the past 28 years of pastoral ministry 🙂

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      • Hey Dermot.

        I have been thinking a little more about your question. The premise of asking God to bless you so you can bless others on the surface is a noble thing – especially if there is no personal gain. The problem I have with that as a solution is it gives only an elite group of people the choice of where funds may go and in turn gives power to only a few. A better model of empowerment is where people aren’t the recipients of someones good will but have the choice to make a better life.

        I think Jesus’ reference in scripture where he says, the poor will always be with us is not an admission that this should be the way of things but rather an understanding that greed will always be with us and therefore inequality.

        If someone has money I would champion them to go out and make a difference of course. But asking for more blessing to be a blessing still keeps the power in the hands of a few. Jesus went to great lengths to turn power upside down.

        I question I ask myself is how much money do we actually need to be a blessing? If we are the richest community in history and can’t be generous right now, I can’t see the majority having a change of heart because they have the benefit of even more.

        I wrestle with this myself and self preservation can be a powerful driver. I just don’t think a privileged few can justify asking for more when most don’t do much with what they already have.

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      • Thanks for the reply Jay. One assumes in your answer though that we’re talking about money? It could just as easily be wisdom that I’m asking God to “bless” me with? If I have more wisdom then I can share that wisdom. If I have more time, I can share my time. If I have more money, sure, I can share my money. The issue as I see it isn’t in the receiving more of something, it’s in the using of it to love others.

        From my reading, Jesus didn’t have a problem with money but he did have a problem with those who placed the acquisition of more money ahead of anything else. In fact immediately after he said to the rich young ruler that he needed to give everything away he said to his disciples that they would receive in this life houses etc to replace those they had given away. Sure there’s a greater temptation for those who are rich but they also have a greater ability to help others if they are true to Jesus in their lives?

        I would think that the followers of Jesus would be the safest people to bless with riches as they should be hardwired to then pass them on to those who are worse off?

        BTW I’m not rich lol and I still love your thoughts on privilege – just trying to tease it out a bit here. Thanks for putting up with me 🙂

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      • Hey Dermot. No need to think I am putting up with you, I am happy when people take time to discuss these things. You have obviously put a lot of thought into this and different people may come to various conclusions – that’s okay. I am glad that we are stirred enough to take this seriously. Keep being thoughtful and thanks for your challenging thoughts.

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