I feel like I hear about blessings all the time lately. The research on gratitude has exploded recently and we have, thankfully, become more aware of and grateful for the blessings in our lives. First and foremost, for those who accept it, we have a loving God who graciously accepts us through the sacrifice of His Son. And, many of us have pretty incredible temporal blessings as well, with a roof over our heads, access to medical care, an awesome ability to connect with others just about anywhere, and more.
But “blessing” is not just a noun. It’s also a verb. And it was this aspect of the word that caught my attention in men’s group study I enjoyed a few years ago.
In going through several blessings in Scripture, we talked of Abraham’s offspring that would outnumber the sands by the sea. David’s Psalm 23 came up. Philippians, which is full of great news, offered, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
The one that stopped me in my tracks, though, was from Matthew. Coming out of the baptismal waters, Jesus and those around Him hear “a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17)
Think of that for a moment. Jesus comes out of the waters, stands next to his cousin, and receives a blessing from His Father. Even more, everyone around Him hears the same thing. So simple, so powerful. Jesus knew exactly where He stood in His Father’s eyes.
That led to an interesting moment for all us in the room. We asked the question: who had been blessed – the intentional, verbal act of saying “I bless you” – by their dad?
“Well… his generation wasn’t really like that” was the general refrain. I asked the group: would you all have wanted that blessing? To a man, the answer was a resounding “Oh yeah.” We want to know where we stand in the eyes of our parents.
I left the evening troubled by this idea. I realized that I had been following the same path – being present in my boys’ lives but never offering a blessing. I was missing a perfect opportunity to share not only my love but God’s love for them as well.
As happens more often than not when God puts an important idea in my head, He sent several more stories about blessings my way over the ensuing days. I’ll share two here.
In his book Tattoos on the Heart, Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest working in Los Angeles with some of the toughest gangs in the world, says that, “in the soul of nearly every homie I know there is a hole the shape of his dad.” (p. 91)
These young men grew up either without a father present or with a father who made their growing up a great deal more painful than not. These young men never received their father’s blessing. In many situations, their mothers were just as detrimental.
In a similar vein, Dr. Fred Craddock relays a story about a small-town Tennessee boy born out of wedlock. Always bothered by the question “who’s your daddy?” by twelve years old the boy had begun to avoid people as much as possible. He even came late and left early from church.
One day, a new pastor arrived at church. Dr. Craddock continues….
Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, “Son, who’s your daddy?”
The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him. Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, “Who’s your daddy.” This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy:
“Wait a minute!’ he said. “I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.” With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, “Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.”
With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again.*
This young man did not have a biological father in his life. But he did have a heavenly One. Being reminded of that fact buoyed his spirits. And, claiming this inheritance meant making it all the way to the governorship of Tennessee for Ben Hooper.
After speaking with my bride about the confluence of events and the discussion with my men’s group, we decided to start blessing our boys.
Almost every night since that point, one of us has said a short blessing over our boys as they drifted off to sleep. It’s a simple thing, said with my hand on their head, ending with a kiss on their forehead and “I love you.”
I’ll be honest – it felt awkward at first. And sometimes, when we are underwater with all the things parents do, we fail to bless them before sleep. But we are charged to lead our children in spiritual matters and providing a blessing reminds them of not only God’s love but our own, no matter what that day brought.
We are roughly two years into this routine and it’s gotten to the point when our sons will ask, “I’m going to bed. Can someone bless me?” Yes, sir!
So simple, so important. I’m so happy that my wife and I started this nightly routine with our boys and recommend it to you. It’s been a blessing to us as much for them.
If you’d like an idea of what we do, here’s what we say each night:
May the Lord bless you and keep you, lift up His countenance upon you, be gracious unto you and give you peace. And may you never know a day in your life without His love. Amen?
* Ben W. Hooper and Everett R. Boyce: The Unwanted Boy: The Autobiography of Governor Ben W. Hooper