I’ve thought a lot about “blessings” in the past year or two.
I’ve always shunned that a “blessing” is something 100% good. I believe that blessings teach us something good, and sometimes they come from something that is not 100% good.
Losing a job can be a blessing if it was a bad place to work, or a great opportunity arose, or if something we’ll never know about happened sometime in the future there that might have wrecked the course of our life had we stayed.
Losing a car can be a blessing if the insurance payout allows us to buy a nicer, safer car–or perhaps there was something internally wrong with the car we will never know about and that never affected us because the car is gone.
Losing a friend or a love interest can be a blessing. I would venture to say a lot of times we don’t know precisely why, but many years down the road, we can often chalk it up to that.
It is wrong to think that a blessing only happens when we get the job of our dreams or we’re healed of a certain illness or everything in life works out just the way we think it will.
If blessing were only good, then only those who do good things would receive them, while those who did not “earn” them would not receive them. It is easy to look around and see that sometimes the best people we know suffer the most, and the worst people we’ve seen have everything they’ve ever dreamed of. (This is a generalisation, though, since it is even easier to look at others’ lives and see what we want to see of them and nothing else.)
Orthodox Christians believe that a blessing is anything that causes us to look up. Sometimes good things cause us to look up and thank God. Sometimes bad things cause us to look up and cry out to God. Both are blessings, and neither have anything to do with the “right” or “wrong” we have done in our lives. God doesn’t punish us here in this life for bad behaviour or faithlessness (though our bad actions can have a chain reaction and punish us instead!).
On January 1, St. Basil’s Day, (which was celebrated yesterday on the Old Calendar, but since I’m not Old Calendar, I will just have to excuse myself by saying it has taken a lot of thinking to say any of this) in the churches we serve vasilopeta–St. Basil’s bread. Usually a coin can be found in it, called the “blessing.” I always thought it was a little silly to think that finding a coin in a bit of bread was considered a “special blessing,” but the more I think about it, the more I think that it is a reminder to look for the small joys in life–especially the ones that surprise us. In 2013, I remember finding the coin and thinking, “This is the year that I will marry my beloved! Of course that’s a blessing.”
By the end of 2013, though, I was laying in bed thinking about “blessings,” and if my marriage itself was the blessing, or if the baby that came from it might have been. The baby definitely taught us both to “look up.” His favourite place to be was church, and he was allowed to be buried in the monastery’s cemetery where he is always surrounded by holiness and prayers.
It has been THE MOST PAINFUL year of my life and I often feel like it would’ve been a much better blessing to have my baby here with me now, but this is one of those blessings I don’t get to fully know. I can be thankful for his existence and know that he is still surrounding me with love from where he is now even as I reach out with my heart to hold him again.
I get to be sad that my child is no longer with us, but I know he was a blessing and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t need anyone else to remind me of that because I know it deep in my soul and I can wrestle with the meaning of it all on my own without anyone’s help.
I cling to blessings like I cling to beauty–with a death grip because I know that without an ability to recognise these things, I will perish.