Let’s get specific. I grew up in upper middle-class, white, evangelical, suburbia in Douglas County, Colorado. This meant when I heard the word “blessed,” it had some very specific connotations. It meant that things were going favorably economically, your house was getting bigger, your car was becoming nicer, your kids were doing well, and your health was strong. And of course, it meant that God was providing these things for you.
Blessed is a word that I slowly but surely have tried to run away from in my adulthood. It was overused in my family and it made me feel that this God who was handing out all this blessing was rather schizophrenic and very homogenous. Like so many things in my adult life and faith, I can either run away from those areas of my childhood that seem outdated or I can choose to reclaim them, so I choose to reclaim ‘blessed’.
To be fair, when someone says, ‘blessed,’ it is a subjective word. The original Greek word for ‘blessed,’ makarios, means that fortune is favoring you or that you are simply happy. Who else can determine your happiness or feelings of fortune except yourself. So when you tag your Instagram with #blessed, and you’re sitting on a beach with a Mai Tai in hand, who am I to say that you’re misusing ‘blessed.’ Lets be honest, you get to choose that for yourself, and you get to be the one who decides if it is God who got you there or not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.
Here’s what does matter. ‘Blessed’ has become richer, deeper, and more interesting to me lately. It is a great word that has the ability to convey a truth that resonates with and integrates my whole life. ‘Blessed’ conveys my well being far beyond my circumstances, while still addressing them. Yet ‘blessed’ conveys a deeper meaning about hope, contentment, and satisfaction because my lens has grown and been transformed, because honestly, life has been hard at times. So when I say ‘blessed,’ I can say from the deepest part of my belly, that life is good, even when it’s not all pieced together.
Jesus begins perhaps his most famous teachings by talking about being blessed, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In this particular teaching, called the Beatitudes, Jesus offers a form of being blessed that was uncommon in my upper middle-class, white, evangelical, suburban household.
Eugene Peterson interprets Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes to say this, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” Interestingly, in my life and the lives of those around me, it’s the God forsaken spaces, at the end of the rope, when God has been most profound. It’s here, in the pain, the heartache, the doubt, the places where my spirit has little to give, and life has bruised my soul, that I come to a place of tasting, touching, and seeing God. Why? Because what else do we have in those times?
Let me be clear and say, I don’t long for the moments of feeling God-forsaken, but it’s these stops, seasons, and moments that have been the most revealing, and led me to reclaim the meaning of ‘blessed.’ It’s here that I’ve been given perspective for all that is good in this world. If we can find blessing and God’s favor at the end of the rope, then imagine what the rest of the rope holds for us.