A Blessing for the Lives We Actually Have

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

“Blessing” is one of those words I avoided for the longest time. I would never say, “Bless you,” when someone sneezed because, for one, I didn’t really know what it meant, and for another, my family didn’t do that. We didn’t say anything at all when someone sneezed which I wasn’t comfortable with either. It was like we were taking an anti-social sneezing stand while I just wanted to be a part of the human race and acknowledge that someone sneezed since the force could supposedly stop a person’s heart. Given the peril a sneezer was in, it seemed heartless to ignore so I said, “katchoo” or “kaploowi” or some other nonsense word just to do something.
The religious origin of blessing was another reason to step around the word; I worried the use of it by those of us with no formal religious affiliation was discourteous. More recently, though, the use of blessing seems to have opened up, as if the word no longer exclusively refers to a gift from God or a prayer for his protection and favor. It feels more mainstream to me now, as if anyone can use it as a wish for wellbeing for ourselves and others or as a validation. This first occurred to me while listening to an interview with Mathew Brensilver, a Buddhist Dharma teacher, who was talking about how to deal with our shadow sides – those unacceptable parts of us that cause such pain and often carry such shame. His instruction? To bless them when they show themselves. I tried it and couldn’t help but notice how much my tormented little shadow sidekicks seemed to love being blessed. There is something powerful about that word.
I sense a similar kind of inclusivity in the word happening in Kate Bowler’s blessings. That woman blesses absolutely everything! A theology professor at Duke University, New York Times bestselling writer, Stage IV colon cancer survivor, podcast host, and scholar/historian of the prosperity gospel,* this sassy truth teller doesn’t go a day without blessing the full range of experiences we as humans have.
And so, at the start of yet another brave new day, here is blessing for you from Kate Bowler.

A Blessing for the Lives We Actually Have
This is for you in whatever week you’re having.
So, bless this, this ordinary day when absolutely nothing seems to sparkle.
Or this lovely day that bursts with wonder.
This overwhelming day when we don’t know where to begin.
Or this garbage day when everything goes wrong.
This pain-filled day when every moment is a reminder of what little we can control.
Or this day marked by deep grief when getting out of bed feels like too big of an ask.
Bless them all for these are the days we have, the lives we have.
May we be met with enough hope or courage or rest, honesty, or shared commiseration
To get us through this day and then the next,
As we trust that our actual lives with all our actual problems
Are worthy of a blessing.

There is something about a blessing like this that makes our ordinary lives feel sacred, whatever the contents of the day we are currently living may be. 
Many blessings to you, whatever kind of day this happens to be.

*The prosperity gospel is the connection made between faith and material wealth by believers of the gospel, a connection Kate Bowler rejects even as she would love to have the benefits.