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.