“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
I know the title is a bit mysterious…and probably a bit too epic for a blog, but it is what it is. I’ve just been contemplating how the grit of schedules, paying bills, and doing things we enjoy (while putting up with the things we don’t), can often make us feel like we’re just hanging on. The dust and sweat of life lingers inch by inch closer to tomorrow and it often feels so consuming. One of the themes of my life is remembering. Remembering the stories of my adventure is a piece of how the Lord speaks in the ‘now’ to me. This blog memoir is my remembering. My songs are me remembering. The art on my walls of my home are my remembering. They are things that point to the path that I’m on. Sometimes it’s the oldest and most ancient things that provide the compass for us to stay straight. That’s what the Aaronic Blessing is for me, but in a roundabout experiential way. For some it may feel rote, but to me it is something that we say in our house, and it’s something that has survived for generations and generations, from when it was first uttered to now as you stare at your screen (I know, Neverending Story moment). And through it all, each time that I say it, I sense the Kingdom of the Heavens present and tangible.
When I think of the Aaronic Blessing I remember a time when I was prayed for. I had just graduated from high school and I was about to leave for La Paz, Bolivia, for a month long mission trip. It was the Sunday morning before I left and I shared what I was about to do to the congregation. After the service, people came up to me to let me know that they’d be praying and some slipped me some money for my journey. Then it happened. A random older gentleman came up to me and said that he’d like to pray for me. Of course, I said “yes.” The man took both of his hands and clasped them behind my neck as if we were wrestling, and he proceeded to pray. If I can recall, his hands where rough, and his voice was gravely. The prayer that he prayed seemed to have an authority, and while he seemed to be a friendly old man, in that prayer he was fierce, and prayed things I had never experienced before. I can’t remember what he looked like. It’s almost like a dream where you wake up and can remember seeing someone you knew, but could not make out who it was. I don’t think I ever saw him again, but even now thinking about that day, I can remember that with that prayer the whole equilibrium of my life shifted. In that moment I came to a stronger revelation of who I was, or rather Whose I was.
I share this because there are defining moments in our lives where we know we’ll never be the same. Where our hearts are drawn to a place to hear the Lord more clearly. And this prayer is an experience of the Lord drawing near to me…continually. This drawing near is something that I feel is reflected in Frederick Buechner’s Alphabet of Grace,
“We are free to go any direction, free to turn away from one and to go another direction. But in the midst of our freedom, we hear whispers from beyond time. We sense something hiddenly at work in all our working. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe in me.’ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…'”
When I recall and sit in these words from the book of Numbers, it feels counter to the plastic Christian culture that can often surround society. There’s such a tendency to draw up some Disneyland type of spiritual experience today, but these words here seem to be words un-morphed into some marketable tool (for me, at least). Rather, they are worn words. Not words grown stale by time, but rather, words weathered by years, having survived war, genocide, and famine. These little words somehow form phrases and thoughts that compose a prayer…and it’s a blessing that points to an ancient path. It’s a path ancient because of the years that it has whispered through the night, the day, the winter, the spring, through the lonely hearted and through the ears placid enough to hear them. This ancient path is ancient because words like these are spoken by the One who spoke everything: the planet, humanity, water and foliage. The One who created the whisper, whispers still, words that glide and fall sweetly on the human heart. This blessing is more than a “good tiding” wished to spectators. Rather, this is both an invitation and a farewell. This invitation is not a call out to a generic crowd. At the time of utterance this blessing was very specific. It was spoken to the people that God had chosen to be His. The nomad tribe out of step with the rest of the world. I believe that it rings true for all those nomads still following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and the whispers of His voice through the calamity and chaos of the daily grit.
Maybe now, in this moment, I am the old man with rough hands. Maybe the thing that gives me the authority to speak these words is that I’ve been on the front-lines and the unemployment line, the maternity ward and the mortuary, in feast and famine, and drought and deluge. It seems that God spoke the words to people living in that kind of reality, which is good, because we need it in our realities now. So, receive this blessing:
May the Creator of the Universe, Yahweh, bless you and protect you
May He smile upon you and be gracious to you
May He show you His favor, and grant you His peace