February 7, 2023
A blessing for those who minister
In a culture of effortless perfection, Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie are determined to tell the truth: life is beautiful and hard. In their new book, “The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days,” they offer blessings for joys and struggles and plain, ordinary days. And because Christian leaders are human too, they share here a special blessing for those who minister.
We live in a culture of #blessed, not of blessing. Social media is riddled with #blessed, pointing to everything from new cars to beach vacations. Blessing, culture seems to explain, is for those who have it all together. The shiny. The most put-together.
Even leaders can fall into a sand trap of #blessed. Often, leaders are told, “You should be succeeding! Every difficulty should be a ladder, with you on your way up! Look at everyone else doing so well.” #Blessed leaves little room for our actual lives, our actual problems, our actual days.
But there is a long, rich Judeo-Christian tradition of blessing from which we can draw instead. Old Testament scholar Stephen Chapman calls blessing a kind of spiritual “placement.” This definition reminds me of a sort of divine interior decorating. “Oh look, this should go over here. Let’s try that against this wall.”
It is a way we can start to shuffle around the furniture of our lives into an order. Blessing is a way of telling the story of God’s work and purposes and our place in it all — not just when we have it all figured out but precisely at the moment when everything feels chaotic.
When we take up the language of blessing, we are being invited into a way of looking again at the often invisible ways God is appearing in the everyday work of community building, vision casting, trying and failing. Even the very average Tuesdays.
This fresh way of looking means having the eyes to see blessing even during those late nights sorting receipts, wondering how this will all add up. Or during those weekend hospital visits. Or during all the thankless work we do behind the scenes to make everything happen. But we can resist a false bright-siding or an inauthentic victoriousness when we say, “God, this is my best and my worst. Bless it all.”
Our hope is that our new book of blessings, “The Lives We Actually Have,” offers a language of acknowledgment for the full range of our days — our good days, our bad days, the sublime and the mundane. Blessings for the lives we actually have, not just the ones we hope for.
So here is a blessing for those who minister (… and might be tired, worn out and needing an infusion of grace for themselves too).
Oh God, we are surrounded by so many to love.
They need you. And we need you to carry them.
And us too, if we’re being honest.
Let love bear up the weight of us all.
Bless all the kids and grandkids.
Children here and those gone.
Bless the people who quicken our hearts,
now and in years past.
Bless our parents and grandparents;
strengthen our roots and our branches.
Bless our pets and your creation,
and the comfort they bring.
Bless our friends and chosen families,
all the bonds that hold us.
Bless our good, good work
that brings us purpose (or at least it used to
— and we long to discover it again).
God, I will openly admit
that my plan was to rescue us all.
Pry this out of my hands.
Absolve my guilt.
Calm my spirit.
Let me allow you to do the impossible
and bear up the weight of the world
I am determined to carry alone.
Give me enough for today.
And then some for tomorrow too.
As I share myself, my loves, my burdens
with you, oh God.
Thank you for this love,
this absurd and wonderful love.
“Whoever brings blessing
will be enriched,
and those who water
will themselves be watered.”
— Proverbs 11:25 (ESV alt.)
Introduction adapted from “The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days,” by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie (Convergent, 2023). Used with permission.