The word, blessed, is one of those strange descriptions that is widely understood and misunderstood at the same. It can be tricky to define. I’ve been using this word much more in the past year because to be honest, I hate using the word, lucky. I used to say things like, “I’m so lucky to be married to such a great guy,” or, “I’m so fortunate to be healthy.” I remember hearing myself say that one day and somewhere deep inside I felt a kind of revulsion against the phrase. The word luck hints at some cosmic gambling match where we either get the right cards handed to us or we don’t. And even if we do get lucky and get a good hand, things could change at any moment, leaving us very unlucky. Not only does it sound as if things are mostly random, it sounds as if we are wholly unaware of what happiness really is. Is happiness based on a lucky throw of the dice? Or is happiness rooted in some other Reality that seems to elude us much of the time?
As a mom, I am constantly trying to balance the juggling act of giving my sons wonderful gifts out of love, while at the same time not subtly sending the message that these gifts are the main thing in life. Part of why I struggle with this with my kids is because I also struggle around this with God. If things are going well, I think things are going good with God. If things are going badly, I think things are not so good with God. God is slowly dismantling this false connection I’ve made based on my flawed humanity. It is shocking how deep it goes. But it all goes back to relationship. Am I secretly holding onto God like an idol, rubbing his belly like a genie hoping to get what I want out of life, or am I holding onto Him like He is my Everything and my All, no matter what tribulation comes my way?
My son, Hudson, left me in a state of absolute wonder this past Sunday. He, like most kids, has primarily experienced God through his family. I have been praying that he would have that moment where he sees God for himself. If that moment doesn’t come, I know our dimmed reflection of Christ will not be enough to shine into his soul. Hudson was unusually quiet, and even pensive, after the baptisms. His eyes were moist as if he was going to just start weeping uncontrollably. He told me he wanted to go home. When we got in the car, I asked him, “Are you okay? Did something happen out there?” He nodded shyly. It hit me. I asked, “Did you feel the presence of God while you were watching the baptisms?” He smiled with tears shining in his eyes and said, “Yes. I felt His power. He is everywhere!”
The moment happened. I didn’t want it to pass us by. We prayed together. Then I told him, “Remember this moment. This is the first time God has revealed Himself to you and if you don’t recognize it for what it is, you’ll be less likely to recognize it the next time it happens. If we disconnect from what God is doing in our hearts, it’s like turning the electricity off. The power is gone.”
When I think of being blessed, I think of God’s power and love moving through my spirit like a current. I think less of what is happening in the external and more of what God is doing within. I stop grabbing for life’s prizes and start receiving the enduring gifts flowing endlessly from Christ’s Spirit into mine. I think of suffering as a medium to depend on Him for his strength, wisdom and joy – rather than suffering as an enemy trying to whittle me down to nothing. I go to the Source of the Power, and in doing so, I have access to a happiness that is charged by a Love that never short-circuits, dims, or flickers weakly. As sons and daughters of Christ, luck doesn’t define us. His blessing does.
I’ll end with the words of Alexander MacLaren, one of the great preachers of his time.
Brother, according to the old word with which the Mass used to begin, ‘Sursum corda’-up with your hearts! The blessings are in the heavens, and if we want them we must go where they are. It is not enough to drink sparing draughts from the stream as it flows through the plain. Travel up to the headwaters, where the great pure fountain is, that gushes out abundant and inexhaustible. The gifts are heavenly, and there they abide, and thither we must mount if we would possess them.
Sursum corda. I like that.
Sons and daughters of God – Up with your hearts!