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Ways to Give the Blessing
Helen struggled with a very painful past. Not only had she not received the Blessing from her parents, what she received from her father, in particular, was closer to a curse than a blessing. He seemed to enjoy making her life miserable. Helen would stay away in the evenings, working in the school library or with a friend, hoping that her father would have passed out from his drinking before she went home. However, too often he was awake and watching television. "Come over and give your father a hug," he would say when Helen tried to sneak past. Her mother worked nights and often didn't come home during the day. Helen was left alone with her father who repeatedly abused her, physically and emotionally. He left heart-wrenching scars on Helen's inner life.
However, spending so many evenings in the library to avoid her father helped her to excel in school work. She graduated near the top of her high school class, and was awarded a scholarship from an out-of-state college. She gladly moved away, but when you do not receive the blessing from your parents, you are not freed emotionally to live your life. Helen was tied emotionally to her father.
After graduating from college, Helen went to work in an accounting department. There she met Karen who was a Christian. Helen liked Karen's positive attitude, and they became good friends. As their friendship deepened, Karen began sharing with Helen the good news about a heavenly Father from whom Helen could receive a blessing. Helen went to church with Karen, joined the singles group, became a Christian, and began to grow in God's love.
But, there was a block in her life. She could not free herself from her past. She had been denied the blessing, and the denial chained her to her father. What really frightened her was the realization she was becoming more and more like her father. She was going to repeat his miserable life unless she could be blessed, and set free to live her life. She was told that one way to receive the parental blessing was to give her parents the blessing. She wanted to skip over that part, but realized she couldn't. The Commandments told her to honor her father and her mother. Jesus told her to love her enemies, to bless those who persecute her. She considered her father an enemy, and could she bless him?
Through the help of her friends and counseling with her pastor, Helen decided to visit her father. She found out where he lived, bought an airplane ticket, and then got cold feet. For four days she struggled. Her pastor and several friends encouraged her, took her to the airport and saw her off. The flight was both the shortest and longest airplane flight of her life. She rented a car and drove to her father's home. With a deep sigh and a prayer, Helen walked to his apartment and knocked on the door.
An old, tired-looking man opened the door. She couldn't believe he was so small; she remembered him as being a giant! She sat on the couch and poured out her heart. She told him how she had become a Christian, and the difference it had made in her life. Then, hardest of all, she admitted the anger and hatred she had carried toward him for years, and she asked her father's forgiveness. By this time both of them were in tears. Then her father spoke. For years he had denied the truth of how he had treated his daughter. He now asked her to forgive him for being such a terrible father, to forgive him for all the pain he had caused in her life.
After four hours that seemed like only four minutes, Helen left. At the door she put her arms around her father and heard herself say the words that she never thought she could say. She said, "I love you, Daddy." All the hurt he had caused in her life had not stopped her from loving him. No matter how badly parents treat their children, they are still loved; hated, feared, ignored, but still loved. Previously Helen could not express that love or even feel it, now she felt compassion, pity, and warmth for a man who had shattered his own life when he shattered hers. Helen went back to her home, her office, and her church a new person. She had been set free! She had received the Blessing by giving the Blessing to her father.
You thought I completed the series of sermons on the Blessing; but the interest in the concept of the Blessing is so widespread, I decided to add one more sermon to the series. Receiving the blessing from parents and grandparents is so important that when the blessing is not given, we are not free to live our lives. Much of the seeking and searching today for meaning and purpose in life may very well be a search for the Blessing. It is, therefore, extremely important for parents to bless their children. And, when the blessing has not been received, it is imperative that you make amends.
The Blessing, as given in the Bible, is when a significant person in your life embraces you, holds your hands, commits you to God's care, tells you of your high value, and predicts your special future. In previous sermons we looked at the blessing Isaac gave Jacob, and Jacob gave to his twelve sons (by the way, last time I said ten sons! How many of you caught the error?), and the blessing Jacob gave his grandchildren, Joseph's sons. I also shared with you the blessing my grandfather gave me when, on his death bed, he took my hands, told me how proud he was of me, and how he knew that I would do good in this world.
Let me continue this morning with some specific suggestions on ways you can give the blessing. The story of Helen and her abusive father demonstrates how important it is to make amends when you have not received the blessing. If you did not receive the blessing, become part of our church where you receive the Blessing from God and from each other, and then give the blessing to your parents. The authors of The Blessing wrote about Helen and also wrote about Greg who spent much of his life struggling with a nagging insecurity. When he heard about the blessing, he realized he felt rejected when, at the age of four, twin sisters were born.
During Christmas vacation, when everyone gathered at his parents' home, Greg found himself alone one morning at the breakfast table with his parents. Greg worked up his courage, told his parents about the blessing, and how he felt left out of the blessing after the twins came along. His mother broke into tears and said, "I've wanted to talk about this for so long. I've always thought it might have bothered you, but I didn't know how to bring it up." The three of them cried, laughed and hugged each other as if they had just been introduced after being apart for years.
One way to receive the blessing and to give it, is to share your feelings with your parents. You will probably find out that your parents did not receive the blessing from their parents. You will also probably learn that your parents do not know how to talk about it, and will appreciate the opportunity to make things right. If your parents are no longer alive, write a letter to them as if they are still alive. Write a letter and let me read it, (or Glenn, Ann, Leroy, Jay,) or a good friend, and let one of us bless you.
If your parents are still alive, plan occasions to bless them. A 25th Wedding Anniversary or a Golden Wedding Anniversary are occasions you can make very special by including a time when you thank them for their parenting, express their value and picture a special future for them in your life, and in the world as God's servants.
Giving the blessing to your children or grandchildren should be daily occurrences if feasible, with a hug, an "I love you," and a word about how valuable and special they are. But, also plan special occasions to give the blessing to the children. I was told last week of a family who gave a very special party for their son when he turned sixteen. It was a typical birthday party with food, cake, gifts, and fun; but they made it special by discussing publicly how thankful they were for their son, how he was special, and what a bright future he had. They gave him the Blessing.
Jewish children are privileged to have a Bar Mitzpha when they reach the teen years. The closest service we have is Confirmation, and perhaps we should make Confirmation a family blessing as well as a church blessing. Two weeks ago when our youth class was confirmed, Kay and Glenn suggested to the parents that they write a special letter to their youth. When the youth were confirmed by the laying on of hands by clergy and parents, they were also given letters by their parents. The next time we have Confirmation, let's devise even more ways to give the blessing.
Another way to give the blessing is to exert more effort to thank and bless those who serve us through the church's ministry. This morning we have such an opportunity by publicly thanking those who teach in our church. They give generously of their wisdom, time, and energy by teaching, usually weekly, the children, youth and adults of our church. After the service you are invited to greet them on the patio, but now let us ask them to come forward so you can see them and bless them.
Receive the Blessing, and let it flow through you, and through your hands to those beside you. God gave you your life because God loves you and needs you to do his work. You are a unique, special, gifted person. You have a glorious, happy, rewarding future doing the ministry of Jesus Christ. Take courage and do it.
© 1988 Douglas I. Norris