Jamie Wright is one of my talented coauthors for the book Reclaiming Eve, due to release in March 2014. She holds a degree in English literature and is pursuing an MA in Counseling. Wife to Ryan and mom to Toby (aka, Super Grover—you should see his cape), Jamie specializes in pursuing spiritual formation and the disciplines amidst the busyness of life and helping others to do the same. Some years ago I had a particularly engaging conversation with a checkout girl at Wal-Mart. She seemed to have such a beautiful spirit, and yet to be so tired, and I was struck deeply by the thought:
This woman is immensely loved by God, He longs to bless her and use her.
As I watched my regiments of groceries slide across the scanner and into bags, an awkward urgency began to build. I needed to say something. Now. But I was loathe to punch a hole in the flow of pleasantries in order to make an opening: “So… do you go to church anywhere?”
Instead I took my bags, gave her my most genuine fake grin, and told her to have a great day. Walking away I had an inner arm-wrestling match with the Holy Spirit.
I got about as far as the car.
It is much worse to go back and make up for disobedience after the fact. I packed my groceries in the trunk, and shambled back in, making bargains with myself. Well, if she has a customer, obviously I’m just going back to the car. Of course this was the one time that there were no customers in line anywhere in Wal-Mart.
I gave the sort of apologetic preamble that’s common among believers these days. I know this is going to sound weird, but… And I simply told her I needed to share God’s blessing and love. She seemed surprised but pleased.
Months later I happened to find the same employee again and this time was faithful to mention God before leaving the store. Her response: “Oh yes! I thought I recognized you!” My oddness or God’s blessing had made an indelible impression on her, just as they had made on me.
I find that the topic of blessing is a difficult one to really dig into when steeped in evangelicalism. All too often, a blessing is a sort of spiritual-sounding salutation in an email, or maybe even a way to gloss over a dig or gossip. The appropriate response to a sneeze. We have no real culture of spoken blessing or an understanding of the gravity of these words.
Digging into scripture quickly reveals the importance of blessing in the lives of the people of God. Abram is first called to leave everything he knows in order to be a conduit of blessing:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3
Later scriptures present blessing as something that is gravely important, non-transferable, and highly desirable when Jacob steals the blessing of his older brother, Esau:
His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”
Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” Genesis 27:32-34
What these scriptures and countless others have in common is the source of the blessing. Any good things we have to offer – verbal affirmations, practical help, Godly example – are always to point the way back to our Heavenly Father, the source of every good and perfect gift. (James 1:17) Isaac may have been surprised that his younger son was blessed first, but God was not.
At the same time, our words and actions are a vitally important part of the equation. Not only does God still desire to make us a conduit of blessing for the world, but the way we bless – or curse – those around us has a huge impact on our own hearts and minds. Psalm 109:17-18 describes a wicked man, an enemy of the psalmist:
He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him. He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.
This image of curses sinking into our bones like oil, becoming a fundamental part of who we are, is sobering to me.
At times I wonder how I will teach my son about the gravity of his words. After all, language is powerful. It connects us or alienates us; it defines us and protects us. A word, once released from our lips, cannot be reeled back in, though we throw thousands of words after it. The same is true for a needed word left unspoken.
How much more should we consider the importance of words that we are given by God for others?
Let me be clear. This is not about eloquence; this is about love. If we are commanded to love those around us through our words, how dare we keep silent? If we are designed to be a blessing, why do we allow curses to come so much more easily?
And if we feel that God is prompting us to affirm another person, whether we know them or not (and whether we like them or not!), what sorrowful disobedience if we keep silent for fear of prying or presuming!
I feel so inadequate to this task, too timid and unwise. However, I have hope that while I may be inarticulate (or even inaccurate!), God is not. He is the source of all blessing, and he wants to use me, me in His work here on earth. How can I refuse?
So may God’s blessing be heavy in your own lives and on your own lips, that you might experience the loveliness of being the voice and hands of God in the life of a person whom Jesus longs to bless.
Your turn: Describe an incident in which someone blessed you significantly through their words. How have you blessed someone in the last month?