(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
March 10, 2019
There are a lot of words used to describe being in a state of grace — “grateful,” “fortunate,” “thankful” and –“blessed,” with its ubiquitous hashtag. #Blessed has morphed into a phenomenon that makes both Christians and non-Christians uneasy.
In these first days of Lent, I find myself resisting the word. Why? What about being “blessed” is so emotionally charged? Why resist it this Lenten season?
You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure — the push for public gratitude that has become slick and pervasive. Sometimes I feel “bombarded” by messages to be more grateful. I am grateful for so much, but for an advertiser to use my gratitude to God as a tool to sell me a product just feels wrong.
Barbara Ehrenreich, (an American author who describes herself as “a political activist and myth buster”) describes the trend as “hoopla,” a self-help movement focused on making you feel good about all the things you have (or imagine yourself having). From daily gratitude journals to podcasts on the “science of gratitude” to vague feelings of inadequacy because we do not feel #blessed, enough.
In an extraordinary piece in The New York Times, Kate Bowler, facing a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, takes that project a step further. “The #blessed phenomenon”, she says, “is a distinctly American version of the prosperity gospel, one that blurs the difference between gift and reward.” We Canadians are just as vulnerable to the message.
Gratitude, and the deep feeling of being Blessed by God is far more than the generation of good feelings within us and then basking in the warm, comforting glow.
Thoughtful Christian writers are critical of gratitude’s comforting glow. Jessica Mesman Griffith (www.jessicamesman.com) writes that the gratitude movement should be met with suspicion. In her essay “Saying No to Cheap Gratitude,”Griffith describes the insidious feel of counting one’s blessings as a motivational tool.
“Everything is a project now,” she claims. “Gratitude, happiness, grace, faith — all achievable in a few simple steps, documented with journal entries, status updates, and photographs.” Bah, Humbug!
Fortunately, the word “blessed,” (hashtag or not) has a deep and rich history. In Lent, I believe that we can find a way to return the word “blessed” to its most authentic expression and meaning.
Lent gives us a season where we feel the weight of the cross in our own lives.It acknowledges our suffering through showing us Christ. In Jesus suffering and redemption, we are blessed, but we are blessed through Jesus pain.
Henri Nouwen said, “to give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s ‘Belovedness.’” In Lent, may each of us know how dearly beloved we are, even as we feel the weight of our suffering. May we flee the promises of gimmicky gratitude and walk as best we can toward the truth of God’s love for us, no matter where we find ourselves. May we know what blessing is, and may we feel it, believing. Amen.