“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.” – a Franciscan Benediction
Bless me with discomfort? Bless me with anger? Bless me with tears? Bless me with foolishness?
Those hardly sound like things to be blessed with. It makes more sense to ask to be blessed with more patience, wisdom, peace. To ask Him for anger feels like I want more trouble and dissension in my life. And no way do I want more tears. Or foolishness. The world laughs at foolishness.
Then, I realize that discomfort is what drove me to Thailand. Nobody moves to be a missionary in the sex capital of the world hoping for comfort and peace. To be in comfort would mean I’m just accepting things the way they are. It could mean I warm a seat at church once a week without any intention of leading others to Christ. To live in comfort would mean that I am one of those people Thomas Merton wrote about, “[Some people] are great promoters of useless work. They love to organize meetings and banquets and conferences and lectures. They print circulars, write letters, talk for hours on the telephone in order that they may gather a hundred people together in a large room where they will all fill the air with smoke and make a great deal of noise and roar at one another and clap their hands and stagger home at last patting one another on the back with assurance that they have all done great things to spread the Kingdom of God.”
Being superficial is one of my greatest fears. That I could somehow sink into a mindset of wanting an easy life and many possessions. That I might somehow deafen my ears to the cries of the poor and oppressed. Or attend a church with a multi-million dollar infrastructure, plopping money into the offering as I pat myself on the back for my good charity, content that my shallow, surface-level relationships are enough to ensure that I get a gold crown when I die.
Thank God I am angry. Thank God that I have not yet grown numb to the plight of the trafficked, that I still have refused to accept the injustices of rape culture, pornography, and trafficking as simply “the way it is.” I will never accept it.
And as for foolishness…this is a hard one. No one wants to appear foolish. No one wants to have the appearance of being crazy or of living a life in vain. But I think I get this one, too. I have to be foolish if I’m going to believe that I can actually make a difference in the world. From all appearances, the odds are totally stacked against me. There are more people employed in prostitution than ever. Poverty seems to be getting worse. Countries refuse to stop killing each other. No one is humble enough to be the first to step out of this obsession with warfare and admit that continually slaughtering each other actually won’t lead to world peace. By all observations, it looks impossible to make a difference in a world that seems to prefer being enslaved to being free.
To believe I can do “what others claim cannot be done” is to believe that poverty can end, oppression can cease, and the slaves can go free. I have to deafen my ears to even some Christians who quote Jesus’ words that “the poor you will always have with you”, without realizing that the implication here is not that poverty is too big of a problem to tackle, but that we should always be with poor people.
When Jesus first called the disciples, He didn’t enter into their jobs and workplace to become one part of their lives. He didn’t approach them and ask if He could tag along to their fishermen’s clubs or meet them for dinner every few weeks. He told them to drop what they were doing and follow Him. Basically, He was saying, “I’m going to change the world. Come along and join me if you want.” Most of what He taught them was discomforting, startling, unsettling, and outside of their comfort zone. Yet, all but one followed Him to the end of their lives. They become foolish enough to think they could actually change the world. And once they tasted a bit of that insanity, they knew there was no way of going back to their superficiality.
God has blessed me with discomfort. And I am so grateful.
I have to note that this Franciscan benediction was originally shared with me by Joyce Oden, the founder and (at the time) director of HOPE61. I do believe it was her discomfort that drove her to begin HOPE61’s ministry.