The value of a free lunch

The other day I was meeting a parishioner for lunch in a local restaurant. The purpose was an informal pastoral counseling session. Before my parishioner arrived, I was pondering over the nearly 30 years of ordained ministry I have experienced, and hoping that in some way my ministry had been a blessing to others. I was feeling a strange emptiness…

When my luncheon partner arrived, we ate, talked, and I feel made some headway on the issue we had been discussing. As I was brought what I thought was the bill for our meal, there was a note on the little tray that should have held it. The note said that the writer had been blessed by Jesus Christ in their life, and that they, in turn, wanted to bless me for the blessing I was to others. This person had paid for both our lunches, the wait person’s tip, and had left the restaurant before I could see who it was. To me, at that moment, I could not have had a greater blessing. It was totally unexpected, and renewed a purpose in me by its graciousness and affirmation. It made me want to be, and offer, a blessing in the same way to others.

So often we have the opportunity to be a blessing, to those we know, or even those we do not know, merely by the way we choose to respond or react to them. And at other times we are able to receive a blessing if we are willing to see God at work, or allow God to work, in our relationships with others. Still, at other times we can do random acts of kindness and blessing, staying hidden from view, for the pure joy of sharing God’s love. It seems, we are empowered to bless others when we have been blessed, and recognize it.

Sadly, we may not always recognize a blessing, or we may have ideas, defenses, or hurts, that prevent us from experiencing it. There are many ways to feel empty even when blessings abound. Sometimes when we come to the end of our rope, having exhausted all the tools we customarily use to deal with our problems, we come to see that there are better tools than anger, guilt, shame and judgment to get our lives in manageable units. We can usually see that the anger, guilt, shame and judgment we may have directed at others is often not what it seemed to be about, but rather something else.

Not infrequently the problem comes from another time and place, from an old wound that never healed; an old, unresolved and perhaps forgotten hurt that keeps looking for resolution, often in people who had nothing to do with the original wound. Hopefully we can eventually learn that the blessed life is more to be found in the celebration of life than in desperate efforts to “fix” it.

Let us pray that God enables us to see our blessings, and use them to bind up our hurts and wounds, giving thanks for joys to be found in life, while moving beyond the ills. And that He will enable us to rejoice in every opportunity to be a blessing unto others….

The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.

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