By Jay McNeill
For so many years I attributed my good fortune to being blessed. My Christian heritage gave me the building blocks to how I saw blessing as a natural consequence of being a good disciple.
If I was blessed then the implication was that I was actively ‘being’ blessed. It was the subtle intentionality behind the action that I missed for so many years. Was God pulling levers to give me an even better life than I already had? I started to think deeply about my own life and eventually understood that on a global scale, my life was full of privilege, not blessing.
Every time I attributed God for my nice car, house, talent, job and so on, I was in fact unintentionally acknowledging that God may have been more pleased with me than a poor person on the other side of the world. But then… I met the people on the other side of the world. I soon realised I was the poor one in spirit and had a deficit in compassion. It was then I came to the belief there was no truth to the version of ‘blessing’ many in the modern Christian movement had taught and embraced.
If I believed that God was blessing me then I had to accept that God was ‘not blessing’ the refugee or the 10 year old sold to slavery or the Syrian whose life has been permanently scarred.
Christians often talk about the positive fruit in someones life as evidence of virtuous decisions. If I truly take account for my inner thoughts, living in Australia has made me more selfish. The lengths I would go to to protect my ‘blessing’ is troubling. No… I don’t want to give up my wealth and have it evenly distributed around the world, it would leave me with nothing… like my ‘unblessed’ brothers and sisters.
I don’t believe that my privileged life is a blessing or a sign of God’s reward. It is pure luck. I know that if rewards for virtuosity were real, many others would be blessed before I was. There are many fathers in the third world that make more courageous decisions on a daily basis than I could ever hope to make.
Yes, I am troubled by my casual response to a privileged life. I don’t think our quality of life is because God likes you or me more than the 10 year old suffering in extreme poverty and agrees that we need even more.
My material ‘blessings’ in life have not made me a better person – the hardships have. It would be fair to ask then, if God was genuinely interested in my character, would he be the one responsible for giving me lots of stuff?
The ONLY things that have made me a better person are the challenges I have had to wrestle with – particularly the ones I have to wrestle with in the quiet moments when no one hears my pain. Many of my readers will know I have a daughter with a severe disability. It has been the most disturbing journey I have ever ventured on when it comes to my faith. It has equally been the most life changing and character building journey I have been on.
So these days I don’t ask for blessing because I know what it is. It’s not a new house or a third investment property – that is just the lucky draw. Being blessed is more likely the carriage of grief and pain. I know it will be unlikely that you will hear this from a platform at church on a Sunday because there is nothing fun or motivating about that message – I think that is a shame.
Yes I am blessed, but not because I can pay a bill without wondering where the funds will come from, but because the dark days have rewarded me with a more compassionate heart and a sobered mind, yet both are still under major construction. Yes indeed, I am blessed.