Blessed are the rained upon

by Kristin on September 26, 2011

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo of what the blessed look like, by K. Tennant

I woke up to a vicious migraine and the sound of steady rain on the tent roof. Every muscle in my body was sore, and when I reached over to feel the floor next to my sleeping bag I felt little pools of water gathering. A few of the seven eighth-grade girls in my tent were beginning to stir, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how we would get them and the other eight middle schoolers fed and packed up, along with our very wet tents and supplies.

What had been the theme of our weekend, again? Oh right, blessedness. At that moment, it felt like God was playing a cruel joke on us, or trying to teach us a lesson the hard way. (And believe me—that’s not the first time I’ve looked accusingly at God in that way.)

Digging into blessing: beyond the cliche

On Friday night, though, the theme felt very alive. As we sat around the campfire waiting for it to burn down to proper marshmallow-cooking conditions, we asked the kids, ages 11-14, “What do you think it means to be blessed?” They raised their hands eagerly, one after another, to add their thoughts. The conversation wandered from “other words people might use to describe blessed (such as ‘lucky’), and what the difference is,” to “moments when we feel blessed” and “what blessing us says about God.” I was astounded at the kids’ insight and eagerness to share their thoughts.

Saturday morning in the pouring rain, after our canoe trip had been canceled and the grownups had gotten soaked in our efforts to better-secure the tents’ rain flies and stakes, my tent group of girls and I climbed into my car to eat our sack lunches and have devotions. The girls took turns reading aloud the Beatitudes, from Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…

As the rain poured down and the windows steamed up, we went through the nine “blessed” statements one by one. What does it look like to be poor in spirit? What does it mean to mourn—not just at a funeral, but in your day-to-day lives? How might you be “merciful” at school or home? What could possibly be good about being “meek?” The girls thought hard and answered honestly, from their heads and hearts.

Then the girls each talked about which of the nine attitudes or actions they most wanted to work on. They worried that some of them were going to be really hard to do well. A big part of God’s blessing us, I told them, comes not just when we “get it right,” but when we try, and fail, and then learn and try again.

Watching the blessings bloom through the rain

Driving toward home Sunday morning, the car packed to the ceiling with wet shoes and gear and the girls quiet for perhaps the first time all weekend, I felt small pin-pricks of relief poking through the cloud cover of my migraine. I knew it would be hours until the pain completely passed, but I also knew it would pass. Nothing makes you feel quite so blessed. Soon I would be home, in my warm bed, with Jason there to make tea for me and rub my head.

My thoughts drifted to something I had shared with the kids around the campfire Friday night, while we were still dry, hours before the rain started. They were discussing the difference between “lucky” and “blessed.”

“One way to look at it,” I said, “is that ‘lucky’ tends to be flat, and one-dimensional. It is what it is. A blessing usually has several layers and dimensions. It might even arrive in the midst of circumstances that don’t seem at all blessed, or it might not take shape as a blessing until much later.”

Yes, I thought as I drove along the expressway toward home. It’s that very depth and complexity that causes a blessing to take root—to grow and flower and spread. Beyond me. Beyond this day. Blessed are the rained upon, indeed.

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  • Kirstin

    I like the distinction you make here between “lucky” and “blessed”–it’s so important, and so easy to miss.

    Also, your post made me think of this video about the 100 daily blessings in Judaism, which circulating around my friends on facebook last week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saAxtLmc5Nc&feature=share

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    It’s almost like you could add, “Blessed are the failures to the list.” They are the poor, the poor in spirit, those who mourn, etc. Failure touches on so many things that Jesus says are blessed. And he came to restore the failures. That gives me quite a bit of hope.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Man: there’s so much to say about a post so multifaceted. I love kids, hate camping, and think the beatitudes are a tree of life. Anyone willing to volunteer to support such a retreat qualifies for sainthood, complete with the requisite suffering (sorry about your migraine).

    Like Kirsten, I benefited from your distinction between lucky and blessed. In fact, Dallas Willard observes that the beatitudes are not so much qualities to develop as they are a description of Kingdom values–and those values are definitely multi-layered. Nice work!

  • Sarah Louise

    Blessed are they that fail the math portion of the GRE, for they shall be called Dr?

    (I needed this post so badly, as I go into tomorrow failing the math portion of the GRE)

    And I love that lucky is one dimensional but blessed is multi-faceted.

    I also love that b/c tomorrow will be the end, and I’m done studying, I could read one of your posts right away for the first time in what feels like months.

    Blessed are they who fail at standardized measures, for they will be measured for their uniqueness.

    (I think I need to read the Beautides. However they are spelled.)

    xo and cupcakes,
    SL

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    I love the idea of encouraging them to see the difference between being lucky and a blessing.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Kirstin, it’s funny that you say that, because I was feeling a bit silly about including the blessed vs lucky issue. I guess I don’t necessarily like how some people make a big deal about being “blessed” when they’re telling stories about something that happened, but I do think about it that way in my head, in response to my own life. It helped to hear the kids think through what the difference might be, and to add my own emerging thoughts to theirs. (Looking forward to checking out the link you shared!)

    ed, yes, it’s always important to remind ourselves that what the world calls a “failure” doesn’t at all line up with how God would define it (not that he would ever use that particular word…). The hope and assurance in the Beatitudes are huge, for sure!

    Ray, thanks for the compassion! Also, I’d like to hear more about how Dallas Willard explains this. What book is it in?

    Sarah Louise, ugh, I’vebeen there with the math portion of the GRE. Not fun. In fact, I have always had issues with standardized tests, so I particularly love your made up Beatitude toward the end of your comment. You are, indeed, uniquely and wonderfully made. Blessings on your day tomorrow.

    The Modern Gal, I’m glad it gave you something to ponder! I’m curious–do you think most people differentiate between those in their heads?

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston

    Oh, Kristin. I’ve already told you that it’s good to be reading you again, but after posts like this I sit back, watch a storm brewing here on the horizion, and think about going out soon just to be caught in the rain, to be reminded of things planted, growing, and in their time coming to spread. Thank you, friend.

  • http://shawnsmucker.com Shawn Smucker

    It’s good to know in the barren times that a blessing is already making its way toward you.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy changed my life. Chapter five deals with the Beatitudes, among other things.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Preston, thanks for *getting* it, living it, and letting me know that you do. It means a lot!

    Shawn, I like the idea of blessing “making its way toward you.” So often I feel like it’s this impossible journey I have to make, toward the blessing, but sometimes we just have to open the door, clear the way, and be on the lookout…

    Ray, good to know! We own that book but I have yet to make my way through it. Might just have to take a look at chapter five this evening. :)

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Probably not very often! I think the true meaning of being blessed or a blessing gets overlooked too, though.

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