Before I moved here, I was warned about the Southern habit of being nice to your face, while saying something entirely different behind your back. I am sure that has occurred. As my Ukrainian grandmother would say, “you have no business knowing what other people say about you.” Truth, Grandma. Truth.
Yet, for me, the blessing in ministering in the South far outweighs the burden. Even at this moment, with a legislature that baffles and saddens me. The blessing far outweighs the burden.
When I consider the blessings my heart received in the six years of ministering in North Carolina, it almost immobilizes me with gratitude. I want to run around and gush to everyone I see. Knowing that a weepy minister for eight months would likely not be a blessing to you, I offer this gratitude in the written word rather than in soppy Sunday messages.
I did not always consider myself a blessed person. When you grow up with a tumultuous childhood and struggle, survival can be the only possibility. It takes a while to learn how to thrive, not just survive. And thriving is built upon recognizing and receiving the blessings in our lives. You each have been a blessing to me.
For some, you taught me a lesson I needed to better understand, caused me to look within my own soul. Others, demonstrated a grace and forgiveness as things I tried did not work out quite right. We tried experiments together. You were kind when I was a new mom and painfully sleep-deprived. You were understanding when I traveled to Raleigh or the corners of North Carolina to bear witness and stand in solidarity.
Key to surviving the fury of hurtful speech and harmful legislation, has been recognizing and receiving these blessings. I do not believe the world is changed from our despair and rage with what has been done, but rather with our vision of what can be and our recognition of the first shoots of hope coming up from the concrete.
This month is all about blessing. We could superficially consider those gifts we have in our life, but I believe the deeper spiritual work of blessing is understanding how gratitude fuels spiritual transformation, and in turn, social change.
To say I am blessed also means I am called to the ethic of blessing, a requirement from the recognition of blessing to give back. One of my favorite spiritual teachings is taken from Micah 6:8, “what doth the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” Translated through a Unitarian Universalist theology, walking humbly means to offer blessings to the hearts of those all around us. It is to be called to be humbled by all that we are given – even in the midst of despair- and to seek to give back what we can in this life.
So, yes, bless your heart. May each of your hearts be a blessing to all whom you meet. May you be blessed to offer the world an ounce more of compassion, and love, and in turn, the waters of justice for which our world thirsts.
With appreciation and love,