Here in the south, I often hear people say when ending a phone conversation or ending a transaction between a store employee and customer, “Have a blessed day.” In these contexts it seems hollow, superficial, too easily rolling off the tongue like that other saying used elsewhere in the nation: “Have a nice day.” What does that really mean, anyway? Have a blessed day. What does that even look like? Would I even recognize it if I stumbled upon it? Can another person truly determine what a blessed day is in another’s life?
But to really bless someone is much more profound. Recently two people said things to me that made me feel blessed. One out of the blue said “Thank you for being you.” She explained what she meant by that and it was more than just a warm fuzzy moment. This morning I received a text message from a colleague telling me that he was going to share a story about a conversation he had with me some eight years or so ago. I did not remember the event but he had and it made a difference in how he lives his life on a daily basis all these many years later. His telling me this was a blessing that not only affirmed me but told me that my life made a difference in the daily life for someone else. We all need to hear and receive these blessings, these essential truths about our lives.
There has been several spin offs on the God made a Farmer commercial that was aired during the Superbowl. This one linked here was for me especially poignant and affirming. Those who know of my life’s journey thus far will recognize several of the themes in this video and I felt blessed. Regardless of your sexual orientation or identity expression, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
The late Henri Nouwen wrote a series of letters to a young journalist he met during his time at Yale University. These letters became the book, Life of the Beloved. Nouwen writes,
Let me tell you what I mean by the word “blessing.” In Latin, to bless is benedicere. The word “benediction”that is used in many churches means literally: speaking (dicto) well (bene) or saying good things of someone. That speaks to me. I need to hear good things said of me, and I know how much you have the same need. Nowadays, we often say: “We have to affirm each other.” Without affirmation, it is hard to live well. To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes”to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. There is a lot of mutual admiration in this world, just as there is a lot of mutual condemnation. A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration or condemnation, between virtues or vices, between good deeds or evil deeds. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.
The world has grown colder since Henri Nouwen’s passing. His words of blessing one another are needed now more than ever. We are far too easily offended by others words and actions and react with violence of fist and spirit. We have denied love’s entrance into our hearts and strike out with vehement rage when we do not get our way or when someone suggests there might be another way to living on this small planet.
I think it is okay for us to feel and even embrace the pain of our separateness from one another. I think it is okay to embrace the reality that our societal structures have molested and abused our spirits. But in that brokenness we need to respond not with bitterness against the world but rather with humility of our humanness.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, mother of one of the slain children in the Sandy Hook shooting wrote a beautiful Valentine Day’s reflection after the death of her daughter, Ana. She shares her experience of thanking the volunteers who were on the scene of the horrendous loss of life. She writes:
I could see in their eyes how much their hearts were broken for me. And my heart broke for them. But perhaps that is what we need…to be more broken for our neighbor, for our loved ones for our coworkers…. and even for the people that hurt us and bring us strife. Unity. So that love can win. Respect. So that love can win. Pro-activity not reactivity. So that love can win. Empathy. So that love can win. Peace. So that love can win. Conscious, collaborative action. So that love can win. Faith. So that love can win. ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34
This is what being blessed is. It is being held in love and being fully present to receive that love. With each blessing we receive comes healing of the spirit enabling us to love anew.