It’s the end of January and I’m just realizing that I missed the start of a new decade. I’m embarrassed to admit this but today when I was listening to a podcast and the speaker mentioned the start of a new decade I thought to myself, “What?” Then it hit me that today am January 30th which means we are 30 days into a new decade and I barely noticed the end of the last one.
If this admission isn’t embarrassing enough I’m also admitting to the fact that I didn’t realize millions of American’s consider the last decade to be one of the worst in history. According to Time Magazine the first 10 years of the 21st century are thought to be some of the worst years in American history. I heard this news, which is actually now old news, just today while I was driving through the middle of New Mexico on a farm road. The road was icy, my knuckles were white and I felt a little stressed about a whole number of things but I still couldn’t accept this pronouncement.
When I think of the worst years in American history things like the Great Depression and Civil War come to mind but I hung in there with the podcast and listened to why people felt the way they do and I was a little more empathetic. My travel partner and son Chase was surprised too and asked me if it had been a bad decade for me. I thought about it and one part of me wanted to say yes but I’m thankful that a larger part of me said no.
If I measured the last decade by some of what I’ve been going through recently I might get on board with the Time magazine folks. I missed the start of the New Year because I’ve been completely distracted by a few painful realities in my life that require my attention. If only I’d had time to read Time I would have realized how much more depressed I could be.
If I had I might not have ever surfaced from the abyss to realize that a new year has started. I would have kept my head down for fear of discovering yet another sad thing and not risked looking at the horizon to see what might be ahead. That’s a terrible way to live. Fortunately, a drive 1200 miles across the country is a good way to get your perspective changed. You simply have to keep your eyes on the horizon.
What occurred to me today driving toward Colorado where I’ll be living is that the problem lies in how we think about being “blessed”. If your only definition of the word blessed is “happy” you have a very incomplete picture of the word. If you think of the word bless in terms of “increase” you can travel much further with your understanding. Getting a little further down the road when you feel weary is a good thing.
Of course the words bless and blessed have different meanings but one of the meanings speaks to being prospered. The minute you say the word prospered or prosperity people begin thinking about success in financial terms. Even the phrase, “getting ahead” is thought of in financial terms which is also very limiting.
If being blessed either means a person is happy or getting ahead financially then tragically very few people could consider themselves blessed. If, however, we could use the word increase synonymously with bless we might finding that we are far more blessed than we would acknowledge.
Increase means to multiply, enrich or enlarge and in its prevalent usage today it doesn’t have the happiness/financial baggage attached to it. We understand the idea of something increasing with greater ease than we do the concept of something or someone being blessed.
If being blessed in your life is equivalent to experiencing increase in your life then growth would equal blessing. Growing in your faith is being blessed. Paul in 2 Thessalonians says to the church he is trying to encourage in Thessalonica, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”
This is a very easy thought to swallow. What’s unpalatable to us is the idea that growth can come without happiness, financial prosperity, or some other feel good thing along the way. We typically don’t equate that kind of growth to being blessed and subsequently our praise for the learning is very shallow.
If only we could look at how we weathered a tough set of circumstances and say they weren’t curses they were blessings. They were blessings because there was an “increase” in the area of understanding, tolerance, self-control, goodness, knowledge, perseverance, or brotherly kindness in our life. Perhaps we aren’t as nearsighted anymore and our worldview has grown making our faith bigger not smaller. As a result we just might be more effective at living a Christ-centered life! Wouldn’t that be worth celebrating?
Just like the Time magazine readers I could say that the last decade of my life has not been easy but what I will say that maybe they won’t is that is has been blessed. It has been blessed because without a doubt my love for God, my faith in Him, and my understanding of how He works in my life has grown bigger and bigger. Adversity has enlarged my view of God reminding me continually that my life is not defined by circumstances. My life is defined by my relationship to Him and subsequently how I respond to what life brings me. Hopefully those “responses” are improving with the increase in learning as I grow in him.
I don’t know what the next decade holds for me but I can say without hesitation that I know it will be blessed beyond compare. I’m making space for the unknown to fill up my life with surprises. I’m not poised with an attitude of relief that the first decade of the 21st century is over. I’m stretching into the New Year (albeit a little late) thankful and with my mind wide open to all the new learning I know God has for me. That will be a blessed life.