|Degas's The Millinery Shop - don't ask me what this has to do with my topic today, LOL. I guess hats are a blessing?|
Yesterday as I emailed my best friend, I shared with her a little sermon I've been preaching to myself all week. The subject? Blessings--and how we're not entitled to them. Naturally, I figure if it's been occupying my thoughts, I must therefore share it with everyone today, LOL.
Here's how www.Dictionary.com (my home page, I might add, ha ha) defines "blessing":
noun1. the act or words of a person who blesses.2. a special favor, mercy, or benefit: the blessings of liberty.3. a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.4. the invoking of God's favor upon a person: The son was denied his father's blessing.5. praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal: The children took turns reciting the blessing.
In my mind, do you know what this makes a blessing? A gift. One given to the person being blessed at no charge, freely. One that ought to be received with grace and gratitude. Certainly when we receive blessings from the Lord, we thank Him for them (or should, right?) and praise Him for His loving kindness and faithfulness.
And when we receive a blessing from another person, we often tell them so, tell them what their gift means to us.
But how often are we like the Israelites in the wilderness? How often do we receive that manna, those blessings, day after day and begin to forget that they're gifts? That we need to be thankful? That instead of whining for more, we ought to be shouting anew every day, "Wow, amazing! Thank you!"
We get desensitized to the good just as we do to the bad. We start to take long-standing blessings for granted. We go from being amazed by them to expecting them. Then to demanding them. And then to thinking we're entitled to them, that we deserve them, that, if they stop for a time, we are being neglected or ill-treated or punished.
But we're not. Seriously, stop and think about it. Were we being punished before those blessings started to flow? No. So if they stop, are we punished then? No. We are simply returning to the status quo. It's only our perspective that has changed.
Which always reminds me of this part in 1984 where the government has to cut the chocolate ration by, like, two ounces a day or something. (Rationing chocolate! YIKES!) They know the people are going to be upset, so do you remember what they do? First they announce that the ration will be cut by six ounces (okay, I forget the numbers, but you get the idea). The people protest. So they graciously raise it again by four ounces--resulting in the two they needed to cut. And the people rejoice, because they feel like they won back something they had lost, rather than realizing they still came up short.
We do this sort of thing all the time, and in both directions. We can be so far ahead of where we were a short time earlier, but if there's anything at all we deem negative, backward, then we think we've fallen, even if we're still levels above where we used to be.
But you know what? I think sometimes we need to "lose" something, so that we remember it wasn't ours to begin with. That it was a gift. That it was a blessing, not an entitlement. We need to remember that sometimes when something is withheld, it isn't an attack on us. That is isn't a punishment. That, often, it has nothing to do with us at all. We're just the hand outheld, waiting for our ration.
A free ration--so who are we to complain if it isn't delivered one day?
Because when it comes down to it, what am I really entitled to in this world? What do I deserve? What do I have a right to get angry about if it's withheld? If we're to trust the framers of the Constitution, it's pretty basic. Life. Check. Liberty. Check. The pursuit of happiness.
Catch that one? We have the right to the pursuit. Not to the result. That, my friends, often has to be earned. And if it's given without our earning it...well then, that's the gift. That's the free bonus. That's what ought to make us raise our hands to heaven and shout our thanksgiving.
There are so many things I'm thankful for. And in a normal day, so many things that frustrate me. But this week, I'm working hard to keep them all in perspective. Because God is so, so good to me. I deserve nothing and He gives me everything. I deserve pain and He gives me healing. I deserve to be cast out from Him and He pulls me close.
I'm not entitled to His love or to His blessing. But He gives it. And so do His children. And when they can't...well then, maybe that's when I ought to be trying to bless them instead.