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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Defining the #Blessed Life

I wish I could just plagiarize the entire sermon my pastor gave a couple of weeks ago. You can HEAR IT HERE and I would urge you to listen to it. I know that you might not though, so I'm going to give you the gist here. Or at least how it spoke to me. I'm just sorting through what it meant to me and also sorting through how God speaks. His still small voice which seems so far away one day becomes so big and so strong at exactly the time He knows I am set to hear it.

I sat quietly in church on the morning of Sunday, December 14th, exactly one week after I had stood up in that same space and asked for prayers for Mathias. On the morning of the 7th, I knew in my head that this 13 year old boy fighting against osteosarcoma had very little time left here on this earth, but I hoped in my heart and through a miracle for which I would continue to beg that he would be given more time. On the 14th, in contrast, I sat silent when the time came to request prayers because Mathias had passed away mere hours after my last request. I did not feel cheated by God. I did not feel angry anymore. I just felt tired. And honestly, I didn't want to ask anymore. I just wanted to listen for answers. And through my very talented and wonderful pastor, I got some.

The sermon was on the Blessed Mary, mother of Jesus. He spoke about how he and his family joked sometimes about seeing  #blessed on social media. That hashtag is prevalent and most often attached to photos of tranquil moments on a beach near an ocean or celebratory occasions with family and friends. Smiling, peaceful, happy, full moments. When I picture the blessed Mary, it is usually as she is depicted at the birth of Jesus. A serene, peaceful, hopeful face as she gazes at her perfect newborn baby.

But as we think of Mary's blessed life, we know that this is not the way she always looked. So then, do we take the term "blessed" away from her when we picture her as she watches her son stripped and beaten, bleeding and dying? Should we discard the notion that a life is blessed if one has to watch a child die? If one has to live with a family member haunted by addiction? If one has to suffer with mental illness? What about job loss, divorce, hunger, loneliness?

It begs the question really. What qualifies as a #blessed life? Who qualifies as a #blessed person? Is it a life full of happiness, ease, comfort? Beaches and healthy children and happy marriages? Is a #blessed life one that is untouched by pain? Can any one of us call ourselves #blessed in a world full of brokenness?

Of course, Mary is blessed. She carried the Messiah. She raised the Savior of the entire universe. Look, I'm not comparing myself to the Mother of God. But I would say that Mary is also blessed because she is chosen. And then she is obedient. She does not answer a call to a life full of shopping and vacations and a full house of happy, healthy children. She is called to something she might not even fully understand and yet she answers,

"Here I am Lord.  Let it be with me according to your will."

We are all called to something. Is it a calling that will lead to only happiness and fulfillment and contentment? Maybe.

Or maybe all those things might be found among the brokenness and tragedy and sadness of life - circumstances which we might not write down on our to-do list in 2015. We can run from those things or we can answer like Mary. 

As we begin this year we might feel compelled to write down aspirations for career success, monetary gain or educational goals. We might have goals for health, or spending time with family or volunteering. I think this is a great practice. Laying out a plan for achievement is prudent and logical. It can definitely lead to a positive start and to hope for the new year.

I imagine, though, that when we write down our goals for 2015, we aren't apt to include how we will face an unexpected challenge. We might not include the fact that we have a difficult relative or friend with whom we need to show more grace. We might not include how we will handle grief if a loss comes unexpectedly or tragically. We might not want to think about what we will do if we fall off that wagon yet again.

We want to see 2015 only as worthy of being #blessed. We don't want the photo attached to that hashtag to look like failure or loss or pain.

So perhaps this year, we might rethink our notion of #blessed. Perhaps this year, we might simply look to answer His call to wherever it might lead. Perhaps this year we might make an effort to consider our life blessed no matter where that call leads us. Perhaps this year we might not need to make long check lists and deadlines and charts in an effort to make our life blessed. Perhaps, in the calling He gives us this year, among success and peace and fun as well as in the midst of struggle, grief and pain, we will find a life that we can called blessed if we simply wake up tomorrow and say,

Here I am Lord.  Let it be with me according to your will.