The Hand of Blessing

Josiah Michael Lee
On Sunday, we brought our son Josiah forward to be blessed by our church family. It was a joyful event, as those sort of things always are, I think. In our church, we come forward and lay hands on people, and the whole church prays together for that person. It’s a beautiful moment. It was made all the more beautiful by our precocious 2 1/2 year-old Sophia reaching her hand over and placing it on Josiah’s back to pray for him.

It’s been causing me to think, over the last few days, about what that blessing means. I have a bit of a mystical and contemplative nature, and am prone to think about everyday events as small reenactments of grand themes. In this case, though, the act of placing on hands and blessing a child doesn’t feel like some great supernatural transaction, some new angel hovering near, or fortune being enticed into a child’s life by some new supernatural gravitational field. The blessing of the church felt human, earthbound, and it was that humanness that brought me to tears in the service. Yes, I cry a lot these days. It’s how I leak out all this excess testosterone.

The church didn’t pray down a blessing that didn’t already exist. They stood up, laid their hands on my son, and confirmed their commitment to the blessing he already shares.

He will live and grow in a community of faith, and will learn to see the hand of God in the mundane transactions of life.

He will learn in the company of loving teachers, in silly songs and motions, in shared toys and snack time, he will learn how to be gracious and patient. As he grows, he will learn to love The Book, and learn how to let it implicate his life. He will learn to take up models and heroes, and to let them inform his choices. He will learn to serve, to give, to set his hand to the task of building the Kingdom of God in acts of justice, compassion, and grace.

He will learn to be a man in the company of godly men. In their strengths, and in their failings, he will learn about honor, and self-discipline, and humility, commitment, the special obligation of the strong to the weak, about virtue and integrity. He will learn about sexuality and identity, about the particular weaknesses of men, and he will learn about them in the company of those who love Yahweh.

He will be the recipient of grace, of instruction, of companionship, of diligent correction, of hospitality, of all the good things that come from life lived together.

When our church comes together to bless someone, it is a very human thing we do – we pledge to be blessing to that person. To see a hundred people stand, and lay their hands on his head, and on his back, and on us in support, and to hear them say, “He is ours, to care for, to love, to encourage, to teach, he is ours, and we are his. We are the cloud of witnesses, the strong right arm, the body, the co-laborers, the gathered followers of The Way, the forgiven-thus-forgiving Family of God in this place. We are his brothers. We are his sisters. We obligate ourselves to him. This is our particular blessing to him.”

Nothing could make me love this church more than the beauty of that moment.

28 thoughts on “The Hand of Blessing

  1. Adam S

    I think one of the most important parts of the blessing, laying of hands, and child dedications, etc. is that there is a point in time that can be pointed back to. There has been a commitment to that person or group of people and we can remember it. And especially with child dedications there is a sense of rememberance that you are committing not only to this particular child, but all the other children that are currently in the charge of the church. If there is not a specific mention of this, then the leadership is really missing out in a large part of the blessing on the congregation.

  2. Seth & Vanessa

    I’m sad we missed such a special event. I can’t believe how fast he is growing (and Sophia). We miss you guys a ton! You are in our prayers and we hope to get to see you all soon!

  3. Sharolyn

    Could Josiah be more handsome?? … or blessed??? What a gift he will have when he reads this someday.

    S & V – Are you the ones with twins?

  4. June

    Indeed, he’s a completely adorable lil’ love! Too bad his dad can’t play any instruments or write and doesn’t know phooey about computers. Poor kid. At least he has his fabulous mom and sister!

  5. Seth & Vanessa

    Sharolyn,

    Yes, we are still waiting on our twins arrival. We are scheduled for a c-section on March 20th, so it won’t be long now :) Thanks for asking!

  6. Gretchen

    He is cute isn’t he? What joy our children bring us. This is a beautiful post Mike, for a wonderfully special day.

    Good luck Seth and Vanessa, we are praying for you! Can’t wait to see pictures of your cuties.

  7. Sharolyn

    Seth and Vanessa – Wow! Keep us posted! And in the next week, get away to a B & B and see every movie that’s in the theaters, even the bad ones! ;)

  8. Cerise

    I never was able to comprehend the magic (if you will) of people laying their hands (or pointing their palms in the general direction of) on a little one until my sister pushed out my neffie Oz. Somehow watching his dedication sealed this very act in my mind (and I reached out my hand too, believe you me, and made all the pledges with my heart) as a way of laying claim to him. We all stood up and said “he is ours. His parents are giving him to our care as well as to god’s”. It was way cool. It was the first time I loved a child enough to think of him in terms of being mine as well as my brother and sister’s. Fortunately they seem to think that a good thing.

  9. Chad

    It’s funny…

    As I raise (well… you know… co-raise) 2 kids, I am more and more convinced of this:

    In the long run, your race, economic status, intelligence, talent, etc, are not nearly as important as whether or not someone just loved and loved and loved you as a kid.

    Sometimes while we’re out, at church or a play area or a park, we’ll come across kids who sorta gravitate towards an latch onto out little family unit. They tend to be a little awkward and oppressive, often trying to gain my attention over my own kids. I try and fight off my annoyance because it’s just so painfully obvious that they aren’t getting attention and love at home, and any adult who is paying attention to kids is prime target #1. My heart is often bruised and pained after one of these encounters, and I want to find their parents and grab them and confront them. I’d bet that if I did that… and dug hard enough, there would be just another generation above them of parents who were unable to show love and value to them. And so on…

    Generational sin is a bitch. It’s something that keeps me up at night, wondering how I will eff up my kids, and marveling at how the choices one generation makes impacts the next, be them good or bad. I also find myself grateful to my own parents, whom, despite a couple of glaring oversights, (food choices, anyone?) always instilled a sense of belonging in my sister and me.

    Whenever my kids are in my lap… I tend to just whisper in their ears, “Daddy loves (insert 1 of 2 names here).” I’m literally trying to imprint it in their neuro-pathways. If I get creamed by a semi on my way to lunch today, I’m hoping that, even subconsciously, there will be a fundamental understanding of the fact that they are profoundly valuable.

  10. Cerise

    Yeah, I hear you loud and clear on that one. My parents made some serious boo-boos that mostly resulted from fiery tempers and not having been loved enough themselves (on one side, at least). God, how those mistakes hurt me. Therapy helped. But one thing that was never, ever uncertain was that my bro and I are totally, fabulously, generously loved by both parentals. They gave us the best things they could afford: the best education, the most wholesome food, they’d save special times for when we could be home (we went to boarding school – a major sacrifice on their part for our education and the main reason my father and I survived my adolescence), and hoarded up treats, likewise, for when we’d be there. Dad could be so terrible sometimes, and I hated him for so long, but I still never, ever doubted that he’d give up anything, even his own life, his time, belongings, money, ANYTHING for me.

    I wish I could make parents like you not worry, Chad. I know you will, but I very much want you to know that even someone like me – flawed hopelessly and raised, sometimes kind of badly, by flawed people – I’m me because of how they raised me, good and bad, and I like being me, so much. And I think that’s mostly because they loved me so thoroughly to begin with.

    Sorry – blah, blah, blah. But this is one of my pet subjects, watching my beloved friends beginning to raise their own little ones, and I want them to know that they’re wonderful and doing just fine.

  11. Cerise

    [referring to my latest comment] Pretty words, pretty words. I wish I hadn’t gone on about this last week, because I spent the weekend with said parents and it went very badly, at least on my end. Sorry – I got all preachy about love and how it will work all things out, and now I’m looking at how I was raised and how our current relationship is going and I’m looking at what I wrote and it all just seems like empty BS right now. Certainly not feeling very loving towards my parents or the daughter they produced.

    I hope this isn’t too whiny for everyone – perhaps I should take it to my own blog, but that’s too lonely a thought right now.

  12. Chad

    Cerise. I’m really sorry you had that experience. I can tell you that you’re far from alone. I sit up at night and wonder what I will do to mess up our kids.

  13. Cerise

    Chad, even though my sermons have turned to dust in my mouth, I’m still not worried about you at all. Unless you literally yell at your kids and wife an average of about 4 times (each) per day.

  14. Cerise

    Uh…we’re talking serious stack-blowing here. The kind where your (you being the yeller and not the yellee) loved ones’ heart rates jump up and say howdy, they get that sick feeling in their stomachs and either feel like poo for horribly letting you down – again – (the younger the kids are the more likely this will be their response) or feel like taking a hatchet to your skull for talking to them or their sibling/other parent that way. An average of maybe four times. Per person. Per day. Can anyone claim that? Anyone? When your kids leave the bathroom light on or your wife doesn’t clear out of the kitchen quickly enough for you to cut the turkey?

    I thought not.

    P.S. This is all hypothetical and in no way lifted from personal experience.

    P.P.S. I didn’t know any other way to honestly respond to what MY definition of getting yelled at is. Again, if this is getting too personal or negative please do let me know.

  15. michael lee Post author

    Just stumbled across this again, while listening to “Young Man” from the soon-to-be-released heartbreaking work of staggering genius which is the next Dailies record.

    Curse you, Chad, curse you and your ability to make me weep alone in a Starbucks.

  16. june

    I was feeling nostalgic about my first baby, who is quickly growing into a full-fledged kid, the day before yesterday, and heard that song and wept all the way home.

  17. michael lee Post author

    “first a daughter, then a son.”

    cried like a baby in the studio when his voice cracked on that line. cried 9 times. In front of Chris and Erica.

    And again in Starbucks.

  18. Ash

    Chad, Erica, Mike, Stick, Chris (if you happen to read this,) and the rest of The Dailies crew…

    Major congratulations on “Young Man”! The lyric is poignant without pandering to the listener. The instrumental and vocal performances are emotionally vulnerable and honest while the mix masterfully preserves their integrity. Thank you all for sharing such a beautiful piece of work.

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