I am struggling with the concept of blessings. The word “blessings” is being tossed around like confetti, but I’m not comfortable with it.
First of all, if blessings exist, are they from you or the universe you created?
Second, if I am blessed, are others not blessed? And how do they feel if I talk about my many blessings? Third, if my children and grandchildren are a blessing, is Parkinson’s a curse?
And fourth, if blessings are from you, what makes us feel we can give them to others? Do we have that much power?
I know for many of us, “Bless you” is just an expression, but I do wonder, especially when it seems to me that some of us are just lucky – lucky, for example, that we were born into a family where there was enough money for education and a culture around us that values it; lucky that we are good at sports; lucky that we have high emotional intelligence and people like us.
Mette Ivie Harrison says: “… when someone escapes a terrible car accident without a scratch, I am more likely to chalk this up to luck than I am to say that it was the hand of God. This does not mean that I would not be grateful if I survived an accident, only that I wouldn’t ascribe it to God’s choice to save me over the millions of other people who die in car accidents.
“Too many good people face terrible things for me to blithely say that I was blessed and they were not. Too many innocents are killed and too many wicked people spared for me to believe that God chooses the outcome of every event. I cannot accept that everything has a reason on this level. To insist that God oversees and approves all tragedies because He has a “plan” for all that pain seems to me to admit to a sadistic kind of father. I can’t look at the pain and suffering of those next to me and feel certain that they are “meant” to suffer and I am not. We are all meant to see each other’s needs and to help, regardless of either luck or blessing.” (“Mormon in progress,” “Huffpost” 6-11-17)
David Rokeach’s interpretation of a blessing makes sense to me: “The blessings we offer are indeed powerful but they are not magical. On our own, we do not have the power to cause that which we yearn for nor do we have the power to compel God by the force of our invocation (despite stories in both the Bible and Rabbinic sources of individuals who are seen as having such capacities). No, like our other prayers, blessings are aspirational; we express in word and gesture our deepest yearnings. A blessing is an expression of hope.” (Gates of Repentance New York: CCAR, 1978, pp. 13-14)
I believe in the power of prayer, and have felt my friends praying for me. And I feel that on occasion, you respond. And when you do, I think of that as a miracle (an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs), not a blessing (your favor and protection). And it is not because of me that it happens, but those who prayed for me. I did nothing to deserve it.
I’m liking the idea that a spoken blessing is “an expression of hope,” not a magical pronouncement, and that my good fortune is due to luck, but the prayers said for me may have gotten your attention.
So from now on, when someone says they are blessed, I will let it go. Perhaps they haven’t really thought about how it sounds to someone less-fortunate. Or maybe they see things differently. And that is their right.
Thanks, God, for listening.