We just had a lovely and long overdue out of town visit with our precious 4 ½ year old granddaughter and her “handlers.”A wonderful time was had by all. Particularly memorable was our first evening meal together. Someone customarily said grace but, when we all looked up from praying, she clearly was not pleased, arms folded in dismay across her chest. When asked what was wrong, she emphatically replied, “I’m supposed to say the blessing…I’M THE BLESSER!”
This annoying cuteness has since had me wondering about just what might be percolating in her young heart, and how her childlike (over)exuberance for mealtime grace might root, grow, and ripen into deep love for and dependence on God. That potential of course is deeply embedded in her. Our Lord himself, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, chided Israel’s religious leaders angered by children crying out to him in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Quoting Psalm 8, Jesus instantly and eternally legitimized their words of worship, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
But what about the BLESSER in our family? What might her grandparents hope and pray that she will one day understand more fully and embrace wholeheartedly? In the Bible “blessing” is a key worship word. The psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name” (103:1). The Hebrew verb, barak, essentially means, “kneel.” When we speak of us blessing God, “bless” points to our kneeling before him. Given God’s identity and activity, it’s an appropriate gesture. When the Lord blesses us, the gesture is the opposite posture: God bends to us. We bow to bless the Lord even as the Lord bends to bless us. We act in obedience and obeisance. God acts in grace, mercy, and love.
I think we can be grateful that our 4 ½ year old recognizes the appropriateness of saying grace before meals, that such a pattern and practice have been lovingly exhibited to her, and that she wants to be thankful and say thank you for the blessings she sees and enjoys. It’s the same impulse that led Moses to write to Israel in Deuteronomy 8 as they were preparing to receive God’s blessing of the Promised Land: “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” Even this is an echo of God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 12: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make you great, so that you will be a blessing.”
We continue in the midst of challenging times of uncertainty, hardship, turmoil, and among some no small amount of suffering. Despair and fear can lead us to fall away or turn away from what we know or hope of God, and the identity, security, and destiny that are integral to God’s gracious plans for us.
In the meantime, as our granddaughter helped remind us, God continues to bless in ways we often fail to notice, but are still invited to see. As George Herbert writes:
Thou hast given so much to me. Give me one thing more:
A grateful heart,
Not thankful when it pleaseth me, as if thy blessings had spare days,
but such a heart whose pulse may be thy praise.