Our recent vacation was wonderfully restorative, giving us the space to soak in the truth of words spoken by the late rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
Just to be is a blessing.
Just to live is holy.
On one of our early morning beach walks John and I felt positively overwhelmed by the goodness of our lives. We have the privilege of vacationing at the beach, and have been able to pay for the surgeries and other treatments that have given me back the ability to walk the beach. We have each other, and a love that deepens every day. We have a terrific house, and a garden with flowers and tomatoes. We have great kids, a sweet little dog, and things to do that we love doing.
“We are so blessed!” The words came out of my mouth without thinking, but when I did start to think about that phrase, it made me uncomfortable.
To “be blessed” seems to me to require that there be an intentional Bless-er, and suggests that this Bless-er does not equally bless everyone but doles out the blessings selectively. In Christian terminology God blesses, but God also withholds, and chooses not to bless.
Think about it. What kind of God is that? And what kind of theology?
To me it smacks of a “prosperity gospel” that suggests that God will reward us (i.e., bless us) if we believe and do the right things. But how can you hold this kind of theology and not end up thinking that every good thing that comes to you is a reward you have earned, or that God favors you in a special way?
And doesn’t that also imply that God holds others in disfavor? In short, that God plays favorites? I have a real problem with that theology.
While God may delight especially in human manifestations of goodness and faithfulness, I have to believe that God equally loves those people who are not models of altruism and kindness, including people who do not follow any religious path, much less the paths of Christian faith. And God even loves those who profess to be followers of Jesus but profane his name by consistently and unrepentantly acting in ways that are judgmental, cold-hearted, and downright hurtful.
God loves. Period. Not, God loves only some people, or only some of the time.
So can we please find another way to express our gratitude for life’s good gifts than to say we “are blessed,” as if God is selectively bestowing goodies? When we’re tempted to say that we are blessed, can we maybe just say that we are awash in grace, and poignantly grateful?
I’m open to suggestions.
— Kris Haig at Sadie’s Bethel Beadery