Saturday, 19 January 2008

The problem of blessing

A number of years ago I had a slightly unpleasant experience. We had just come back to Swansea from Lebanon and I was at a church meeting where one of the current evangelical gurus from London, a suave, smart-suited fellow with not a hair out of place, was holding forth on the subject of workplace evangelism. In the best tradition of not lecturing at people without a break he made us do some exercise on, I think, what our work colleagues liked. I stared at the blank sheet of paper for some time. The suited man strolled over and stared at me. “Are you finding it a bit too easy?” he asked. “No,” I said. “I’m unemployed.”

I was reminded of this salutary tale last night, when feeling like some dynastic Victorian father, I gazed over the table at not just my wife but Son I and wife, and Son 2 and fiancée, just arrived for the weekend through rain and wind, all discussing the Puritans. I felt blessed and want to share it but, mindful of my readership, feel uneasy. For there are those who are not so blessed.

I know I am not alone in being made uneasy by blessings. In our church, for example, we have taken a decision not to mark Mothering Sunday. We have too many failed marriages, single women and infertile couples. (If your church is different, please don’t tell me.) In a city where unemployment has never really gone away, we try, unlike the besuited speaker, not to assume that everyone has a job and a pension. In writing this blog to a largely unknown readership I must assume that not all out there are as blessed as I am. This raises a problem: what am I to do with my blessing? How am I to express my pleasure at friends, family, health, a measure of wealth (at least by the standards of most of the world) and yes, blog readers and fans? And all entirely undeserved.

In fact, I suspect that this last phrase is the key. It is a grace gift: it is all undeserved. (By the way isn’t it the unfortunate and probably inadvertent implication that blessing has been merited, one of the things that makes the prosperity gospel so unappealing?) So friends far and wide, I am blessed: I give thanks and I wish there was some way of sharing it around.

On various other matters, I apologise for the delay in writing the blog; it’s been a busy week. It’s that time of the month when I write a blog for Speculative Faith and I have had a lot of other things to do. And now, back to the family.