Monday, January 24, 2011

A Blessed Life? (It may not be what you think it is.)

“I’ve lived a blessed life.” We hear people say it all the time, but what do they mean by it? Quite often it’s said when things are going well. They get a job promotion and they’ve been blessed. They find out that lump they had biopsied isn’t cancer and they’ve been blessed. Someone finally makes an offer on the house and they’ve been blessed. But is that what it means to be blessed? Is it all about having things go our way? If that’s the case, I wonder why Jesus would ever have said anything so preposterous as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” or “Blessed are those who mourn.” Being blessed must not have a whole lot to do with having everything go our way. It must mean something else.

I heard a story about a man named Michael Plant, who set off on a solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1992. He was an expert yachtsman and had made the trip several times before. His brand-new sailboat, The Coyote, was very high tech; there were few like it in the world.

Plant’s support team monitored his trip by satellite and radio. Everything was smooth sailing. Even when a storm disrupted the communications, no one worried about it. After all, this guy was one of the best sailors in the world. His boat was equipped with state-of-the-art navigational equipment. They figured Plant would resume radio contact when everything settled down.

When they didn’t hear from him, they tried repeatedly to reach him by radio. Still nothing. So they sent out Coast Guard helicopters to search for him. They spotted The Coyote floating upside down. It’s captain and sole passenger was never found.

How could this have happened? people wondered. Everyone knows that sailboats are very hard to turn over. Their deep keels and massive rudders right themselves. But as the boat was examined, the cause of the tragedy became clear. For all its beauty and technological advances, The Coyote didn’t have enough weight beneath the surface. There wasn’t enough ballast below to outweigh the fancy gadgetry above. And so, it flipped over as it lost its ability to balance in the water during a storm.

We seem to equate being blessed with what’s happening in the boat. The more fancy stuff we have in our lives and the better they look on the surface, the more we believe we’ve been blessed. But I don’t know if that has much to do with the way God blesses us his people. God’s blessing is found beneath the surface. It’s the keel that gives our lives direction and keeps us from capsizing in a storm.

The relationship we have with God is what blesses us. We would do well to work at developing that relationship so that more weight is given to our lives below the surface and less above the surface. For when we find ourselves in a time when we’re struggling to stay afloat, it will become apparent to us how blessed we are. We’ll understand that being blessed is not about having everything go our way, but being blessed is experiencing and knowing that no matter what happens in this life, God will see us through it.

Our blessings are measured by the weight and depth of the relationship we have with God. That’s the kind of blessing Jesus tells us to strive for. It’s why he can say: Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are those who mourn. It’s also why he could say: don’t spend your life fretting over what you’re going to wear or what you’re going to eat. Above all else, seek the Kingdom of God.

There’s an old Celtic fisherman’s prayer that says: "Dear God, be good to me; the sea is so wide and my boat is so small." It’s so true. The sea is so wide and our boat is so small. And our boats are blessed, not because of what they carry inside them or how they look above the surface, compared to other people’s boats. They’re blessed because of what’s happening below the surface, the part no one can see. It’s the relationship we have with our God that blesses us.

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