“To bless is to project the goodness of God into a person’s life…” (Dallas Willard)
“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)
One of my favorite times of the day is when I go into my kids’ rooms after they’ve gone to sleep. I think through the highs and lows we have experienced, and speak a blessing over them to affirm the good and counter the negative things that happened. As I do this, I become aware of how my own sin has polluted the air they breathe. I find I need to clear the air between me and God, and to ask him to show me how to choose life the following day. It is at once challenging and comforting to know that God is with us as we work through this maze of family life.
Here’s the thing about blessing: as we speak the goodness of God into the life of a person or a place, we become aware of any ways that our actions currently counter that good.
I speak peace into my home...and become acutely aware of the ways my actions have counteracted peace.
I speak joy over my neighborhood...and become aware of other words I have spoken that carry despair and resignation.
I am invited to bring these negative things to God and uproot them from my life by walking in the opposite spirit. For every word and action where I fall short of God’s goodness, the gospel presents an opposite, positive response for me to live into instead. I learn to not just speak blessings, but to walk them out.
WALKING IN BLESSING BEGINS WITH AWARENESS
How do we walk in the spirit of blessing? Do we stuff down our negative emotions, slap on a smile, and speak happiness and light to everyone we meet? Do we pretend that nothing bothers us? If this is our approach, our negative emotions go underground, to simmer and fester and eat away at our core, usually leaking out of us in the form of resentment, despair, or passive aggressive actions, the very things we are trying to counter.
Instead, we must become aware of the ways our insecurities or pain have brought us to collude with the problem rather than walk in love. We confess, receive forgiveness, and choose to move with God rather than stoke the fires of fear, pride, discontent, and dissension.
As we become aware of and lay down these things, we find ourselves more aligned with God’s heart, able to see our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and cities with God’s eyes, and to more fully speak his goodness into them. We are ready to be conduits of blessing.
WALKING IN BLESSING ONE STEP AT A TIME
Ron Rolheiser suggests there are three parts to a good blessing: We must look to truly see a person, we speak well of them, and we give a piece of ourselves away through words or actions.
So what does this look like?
Let’s take my 5-year-old daughter for an example. It recently became apparent that right now she is feeling my anger more than my tenderness. This is not the way I want things to be. I’ll break down what walking in blessing would look like in our relationship and the transformative impact it could have.
1. Look Inward with God
If I am to look with God to truly see my daughter, I must first look at what is going on in my own soul when I interact with her. I set aside time when I am not in conflict with her to ask God to show me myself. Sometimes this is a quick process as I pray over her at night. Other times I may take a longer period to reflect on my relationship with her. What in me feels the need to jump to control and subdue her? What fear is being triggered by her calling my name? What part of me needs to hear and rest in the gospel right now? I take time to hear and receive God’s words, love, and forgiveness, and to rest with him.
2. Look at the Other with God
Only after I look inward do I ask God to show me what he sees in my daughter. What are her gifts, her passions, her strengths? Where is she hurting, fearful, at tension within herself? What word or action will align with God’s heart for her and speak his goodness into her life?
3. Speak God’s Truth
From there, I take as many opportunities to speak what is true of her, not just once, but over the course of time. I choose to speak truth where I know the enemy wants to lie to her. When I see her do something well, I say it.
4. Give Myself for the Other
I am invited to continually lay down my agenda for the good of my daughter, not to coddle, flatter or spoil her, but in order to build her up to walk in her identity as a child of God. As she comes to rest in his love for her, and as I choose not to criticize things that don’t need fixing, she then is able to walk with Jesus as he has designed her to walk, and to hear the harder words of discipline when they need to be said.
As I continually choose this path with her, my heart is expanded not just toward her, but toward the rest of the family, my neighbors, the mamas at the school gate, our church leaders.
It’s a funny thing how blessing begets blessing...
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Who in your community would you like to be more free to bless? Take a few moments with God, and allow him to take you through the steps I just outlined with my daughter. How does it feel to look at your own soul with God and hear his heart for you and for another? What truth does he want to speak into your heart?
May you know the presence of Christ in you and others as you look to see and call out the goodness of God in and toward your community.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenny Walley lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and is an affiliate with the ReNew team. She offers spiritual direction, retreats, and discernment processes for ministry leaders and congregations. More importantly, she is wife to John and mama to Sam, Hannah, and Miriam, her four greatest teachers in the way