For a little while now, I've been reading 'Life of the Beloved" by H. Nouwen with a group of young adults. Most of our discussion has been centered on embracing the fact and practice of being "Beloved" by God. This last week, we've moved on to the topic of "blessing".
Image from Cathy Jamison Fine Art.
When I think of a blessing, I think of a prayer said before a meal or a night-time "Now I lay me down to sleep...". I learned that the meaning of blessing is benediction and when that word is broken down to it's root meaning it is: Speak/well.
I was challenged in our discussion to consider how much talking would cease if the only speaking we uttered was a blessing, a benediction, or speaking well of self and others at all times. What we hear from others and speak has an incredible impact upon the world. The practice of blessing and affirmation is one that proves to be a great value, especially in light of all the 'other' things that usually fill our ears and mouths.
Mr. Nouwen says knowing we are beloved by God is not enough to keep us on the track that leads to life, it is also necessary to understand and embrace our blessedness in practical ways. He challenges the reader to not only become more aware, jot down and be actively thankful for the blessings in our life; but to take time in solitude, scripture and prayer daily so we are reminded that was are beloved and blessed. He also states that the blessed person can't help but to bless others. Once we truly understand our beloved and blessedness, and we take time with God away from the "other" chatter then we will gain greater ability to bless others.
For years quiet time has been a challenge for me. Each day of my life is not consistent in schedule or duty - so hulling out a quiet time and space can be daunting. However, when I look at quiet time in the framework of blessing and in reading Nouwen's directive approach, my perception and value of quiet-blessing-time is increasing. If I desire to be a blessing to others, how can I give something that I don't take time for myself. I don't want to be empty of the ability to speak well of others, so it is necessary for me to allow time for my own quiet blessing time - so I am filled with God speaking the blessing and beloved identity into me. Only then, can I speak it to others.
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”
Taking time for quiet-time or blessing time as I've started to call it, is a very practical way of living out this commandment from Mark. This act of moment-by-moment living into being beloved and blessed is a challenge, but it is much less difficult than trying to live in a world absent of blessing or love. In blessing time - our love for God, others and self is shown in taking time to be filled with something we all are searching for...a blessing.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen