What is the nature of a blessing?

I am drawn again and again to the idea of blessing. It is a word that I often use to close an email message. Every time I type it there is a hesitancy, as I wonder if I am being presumptuous. Does it sound as if I am trying to bestow God’s blessings?

A blessing to me is a grace-filled gift, something that I do not necessarily earn but for which I need to be open to receiving.

However Jan Richardson, in her poem below, helped me to consider another aspect of blessing: the blessing that comes from deep within each of us, which we need to express before it can return to us.

So if it is
a blessing
that you seek,
open your own
mouth.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again
wanting you to
repeat it
but louder.

So I will try and rise to the challenge of forming words I have “never dreamed to say.” How amazing it would be for us all to find our own unique voice.

But how do we do this when you add something horrific into the mix, such as cancer? Suddenly blessings seem to dissolve and we are in a terrifying place where it seems life and death are battling it out. It is not a place we want to linger. We just want the war to be won, the cancer beaten and our loved one returned to health.

Sophie Kohn asks the question, “How do I talk with my mother, a real person who wakes up each morning with the disease, floating in the uncomfortable grey area between cure and death?”

Kohn realizes that our words for cure are fighting words and our words for death are about finding peace. So I wonder, how do we find our voice in that borderland, where language escapes us?

Perhaps this boundary between the blessing of life and the mystery of death is worth exploring, especially during this season of Lent when some of us are journeying with Jesus, walking a path where the cross of death looms ever larger.

Our voice might bounce angrily back to us in the chasm of despair, or sink to a hoarse whisper as we cower behind closed doors.

If we have the courage to linger in the ‘in-between place’ between the known and the unknown, we might discover a different voice.

Perhaps we might speak words we have “never dreamed to say,” words that ground us fully in the present moment, that acknowledge ambiguity and embrace the blessing of facing our limitations.

We might take the time to have that challenging conversation with someone close to us, the one we have been putting off.

What might we say to the Earth, as we grapple with the harm humankind is inflicting on our home? These are the places where new life begins. That is a blessing indeed!

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