I haven’t been able to cry for the past couple weeks, even when I’ve wanted to. I’ve been unable to allow myself to feel things; numb in the worst way.
“Blessed Are They” is the title of the last chapter of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s newest book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Reading this last chapter, I surprised myself when I started bawling. Here’s why:
…what if the Beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try to meet to be blessed? What if they are not virtues we should aspire to? What if Jesus saying “blessed are the meek” is not instructive but performative – that the pronouncement of blessing is actually what confers the blessing itself? Maybe the Sermon on the Mount is all about Jesus’s lavish blessing of the people around him on that hillside, blessing all the accidental saints in this world, especially those who that world – like ours – didn’t seem to have much time for: people in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance.
Maybe Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who didn’t otherwise receive blessing, who had come to believe that, for them, blessings would never be in the cards. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?
So on that All Saints’ Sunday, I imagined Jesus standing among us offering some new beatitudes, and I said to the congregation:
Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised.
Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
You are of heaven and Jesus blessed you.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean. Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are the motherless, the alone, the ones from whom so much has been taken. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”
Blessed are Larry’s wife and Billy’s mom and Amy Mack’s friends.
Blessed are those who mourn.
You are of heaven and Jesus blessed you.
Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables.
It was at that point that I found myself sobbing, because that was me. I was the kid who didn’t fit, the one that middle-school girls told to go make other friends and sit somewhere else because I just didn’t get it.
The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the losers and the babies and the parts of ourselves that are so small, the parts of ourselves that don’t want to make eye contact with a world that loves only the winners.
Blessed are the forgotten.
Blessed are the closeted.
Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented.
Blessed are the teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek.
You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are foster kids and trophy kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.
Blessed are the kindhearted NFL players and the fundraising trophy wives.
Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.
On the page before this chapter, Nadia hit me hard with this one, too:
“The sting of grace is not unlike the sting of being loved well, because when we are loved well, it is inextricably linked to all the times we have not been loved well, all the times we ourselves have not loved others well, and all the things we’ve done or not done that feel like evidence against our worthiness. Love and grace are such deceivingly soft words – but they both sting like hell and then go and change the shape of our hearts and make us into something we couldn’t create ourselves to be.”
Let the truth set you free, like it did for me.