Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#blessed


Dear Social Media Peers,

Recently I read an article, The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying. The one thing: blessed. For those of you too lazy or Internet-challenged to read the entire short article, it basically challenges our current societal use of the word against its original Biblical meaning. I commend the author’s calling out of our flippant attitude toward true blessing. And as a believer functioning (read: barely surviving) outside of the Christian bubble for almost 3 years straight, I have grown to be frankly annoyed by Christianese, or Christspeak.

Our new house is such a blessing.

I am/we are blessed by such an amazing family/church/community/lover/friend/insert noun of choice.

                  That sermon was so amazing, such a blessing.

I am not attempting to undermine the things and circumstances that bring rest and humility and conviction to our lives. As such, those things can truly feel like a blessing, especially in the midst of an opposing environment. Sometimes it is even noble and humble to confess blessings. I will not judge hearts nor inward motives. It can be an act of humility to acknowledge the Provider and Sustainer of all things tangible. It should be our regular practice. But does it have to be out loud for—really-- the whole world to witness?

We, dearest Social Media Peers, have taken it to an extreme. Go ahead, search #blessed on any Internet-based venue (Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter producing the most laughable results). How is a picture of your tattooed, voluptuous, bronze boobs #blessed? Or your bare, ripped back and outstretched arms facing an ocean sunset #blessed? And what does #blessed have to do with #workout, #suave, #itsadogslife, and #elsalvadorian (all-inclusive #blessed hash tags)? That #blessed mountain gondola ride: would it still be #blessed if in less than 2.5 seconds somehow detached itself and plummeted 1,359 feet to its fate…and yours?

The
TRUTH
is
YES.

Why are the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, the persecuted, and the falsely accused #blessed? (As promised by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5.) The rich young ruler is not #blessed by his riches. Is the board-house, rice-sustained, drought-stricken Jamaican not blessed?
The
TRUTH
is
NO.

 It would still be #blessed if the gondola came unattached and you freakishly died. Maybe not for your perfectly picturesque life as documented on Instagram and by way of FaceBook status updates. The mourning mother is comforted by the Author and Perfector of life and will be reunited with her deceased daughter in the perfection of heaven.  That is how she is #blessed. Those Jamaicans are still giving thanks for their boards and their rice (check out the "Give Thanks" heading on this blog post). They realize that #blessed comes from more than a perfect life. Consider the true blessing: the beauty in the ashes, the stars that shine only because of the dark that surrounds them.

Author, speaker, and blogger Jen Hatmaker writes in her documentary and personal journey of simplification, 7: “Oh, how we love religious yokes, not for what they communicate about God, but what they say about us. This is the kind of people we are.” Even if you refuse to believe in any kind of god, your posts about being #blessed are undeniably about YOU. Which is ironic. Because in the acknowledging of #blessed itself, you subliminally acknowledge grace.

We are missing the point of #blessed. We are reducing its value when we use it every 5th post or update. Dare I venture to suggest we use it selfishly, pompously, as an attempt to appear humble in the guise of really showing off our envious lives? In a way, I appreciate the use of #blessed. It’s passive. It acknowledges grace, something we have been given that we do not deserve or have not earned and can in no way accomplish or create on our own. Yet we have made #blessed egocentric, solely about us. We have selfie-ized the true blessing and reduced it solely to an esthetically-pleasing, carefree attitude of look at me. No, really, look. at. me.

Whether you believe in God as I do or not, the vast majority of us would agree that the world is NOT about us. For the God-fearing, this life is obviously about God and sharing Him with the world around us. For everyone else, I bet I can get you to admit that this world is about others. About sourcing drinking water for villages in Africa, about providing meals and shelter for the needy, about smiling at a stranger, and—in the least—about donating perfectly usable unwanted items to Goodwill rather than merely trashing them.

I beg you, Social Media Peers, reconsider your #blessed life. Are you #blessed because you have something to envy? Or are you #blessed because you have been given something you know you do not deserve? Give it a moment of thought before your next hash tag.

P.S. This letter came to fruition after a few weeks of marinating in my brain and a recent trip to Denver, where I discussed all the juices with my sister & her husband. Here is her take on #blessed.

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of July

Mama,

My mama. Today is your 55th birthday. And the 28th birthday that I have the privilege of being your daughter.

You may remember the sappy, depressing teenage romance novels I read as a young girl, always centered around a youthful young woman with every promise of life before her, only to die of some rare, degenerative, juvenile disease. Of course she always had a boyfriend and was the star of her high school and oftentimes came from a poor socioeconomic home. There was one such character, Melissa, who was probably dying from leukemia, and her rich best friend (who drove around in a red convertible and laid by the pool all day), Jory, had anger issues with her best friend's disease and death. By the end of the story, Melissa had written Jory a letter. In in she wrote,

"Wrinkled and grey sounds good to me."

Those words have clung to me ever since. (See, life lessons can come from awful books.) Melissa understood the value of grey. She wasn't worried about crow's feet or smile lines on her face. In fact, she was dreaming of it, longing for the day to embrace the fact that she was old. Because that meant that she was living.

You, my mama, are almost all grey. You've had smile lines around your eyes ever since I can remember. And you've embraced it with every graceful year. You've never been too concerned with esthetics or looking a certain age. Until you became so grey, people frequently guessed you to be much younger than you actually are. Thank you for passing those genes along. :) Despite the grey and the wrinkles and the height difference, people know--without a doubt--that I am your daughter. You are my mother. Even just today, the spunky cashier exclaimed to us, "mother and daughter!" It's like people can't help themselves because we look so similar.

I've always favored you looks-wise. Dad spends long moments pausing at my high school graduation picture on the wall, probably because it reminds him of his youthful love, of the early days of your high school romance. And what I've come to realize is how much I yearn to look like you on the inside, too.

To have your patience
your calm composure and responses to other people and circumstances that are not so patient.

To have your thoughtfulness
the way you think of others when you see, when you create, when you share.

To have your positivity
constantly looking for the good in seemingly frustrating and discouraging circumstances.

To have your beauty
knowing that while outward appearance matters to some extent, a woman's beauty comes from inside,
how she treats others and cares for the world around her.

So on your 55th birthday, Mama, enjoy the most festive birthday cake you've ever had, the fireworks that are just for you, and the gift of aging.
I love you so very much, my Mama.