I recently heard someone celebrating the millions of times people have used the designation of #blessing or #blessed on social media. The conclusion they were making is that it is great that so many people are seeing blessings in their lives.
Share a picture of your family on the beach. #blessed
Share a picture of reunions with friends. #blessing
Share a picture of something beautiful. #blessed
Share a picture of someone who has recovered from some illness or hardship. #blessing
But what about those who are isolated and alone-- do they claim #blessed? Or those who have been working for the past 18 months without being able to take vacation time because of limited qualified workers to fill in while they are away. Where is the #blessing in their exhaustion?
When we reduce larger concepts into the form of a hashtag on social media, I fear we water-down their significance. I worry that we confuse theological ideas which have been central to the lives of the faithful for thousands of years with current trends and their meaning is lost.
We know from biblical texts that blessing is concerned with belonging. It is a designation which serves as a reminder that for the one who receives a blessing that God is at work in their life. It signifies that the blessed one is chosen by God—they belong as one of God’s people.
But we need to add a cautionary word so that we don’t understand one person’s blessedness to suggest that there are others who do not deserve to be named amongst God’s chosen. Or that the more #blessings, the more significant that individual is.
We were given a house-warming gift when we moved into a new home a couple of years ago. It is a plank sign with the word “Welcome” printed on one side. On the other side is “Blessed”. We keep the welcome message as the side for all to see. It feels a little boastful to declare our home as blessed. We are fortunate to have our house, but I don’t need to highlight or boast about my privilege to the world. I need to focus instead on the source “from whom all blessings flow”, to quote the traditional doxology.
Theologically then, when we think about the source of blessings, we acknowledge that the goodness which is being highlighted is not about the individual, but the One who gives us life. We are not boasting of the status of the recipient of the blessing. We are acknowledging that it is not just luck or chance that has provided this good thing. And it is also a not just a result of their work or faith. It is about relationship with our Creator.
Likewise, blessings are things which shouldn’t be quantified. They are attributes of a relationship which at best are appreciated for just what they are, a declaration of relationship, of belonging.
But the temptation is to count our blessings. Or to count the blessings of others. And in keeping track, we lose sight of the power of this relationship between the Giver and the one receiving the blessing. And we assume that the more #blessings, the better.
Abundance - Having Enough
What if we thought of #blessing from the perspective of abundance? Instead of #blessings being a limited commodity that is shared, as one would divide a pie, what if there were enough #blessings for everyone? What if #blessing is not about keeping track of good gifts, but about receiving what we need? Unlike a pie with a limited number of pieces, there can be enough #blessing for everyone.
The challenge is that we live in a data driven culture where we keep track of more numbers than our minds can track. For instance, I can report to you that the four zucchini, three cucumbers, many cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers which we harvested this year make us look like seasoned gardeners compared to our meager harvest last year. And yet, I would not use the #blessing in describing our 2021 garden because I know, compared to others, our harvest is sparse. We have barely enough to provide for our needs for fresh vegetables for the month of August. And we struggle with the feeling that perhaps we did not do enough and therefore, are not worthy of declaring #blessing. Because in terms of quantity, there is definitely a very limited supply.
However, from the perspective of abundance, #blessing is not about the size of the crop, but the recognition that God works through all of creation to provide us with flavors that delight and nutrients that nourish. Our cherry tomatoes are sweeter than candy. The jalapenos are perfectly “just right” for my mild tongue. The zucchini made great zoodles and was perfect in our favorite lemon blueberry zucchini cake. From the vantage point of delight maybe our harvest does deserve #blessing.
Let us not count the numbers or use data to determine our worthiness to receive the blessings of the harvest. May we see how it is that God is at work in our lives and claim this reality in life around us. Look around and see the abundance of #blessings which surround you. And may you be a #blessing wherever life takes you in these days. We don’t have to boast. But, it is important to acknowledge God’s presence in our lives every day because there is room for everyone at God’s harvest table. And indeed, God is the source from whom all #blessings flow!