The Work of Blessing Others
By Elisa Morgan
I show up a bit early as I want to be of help if needed. My young friend is leading an effort for which my heart beats. Actually, my heart has actually bled for this work. For decades. But while my heart is still wrapped around this important cause, my responsibility for it has shifted. She carries the mantle and she deftly wields her influence over the room where we’ve gathered. Quietly, I watch and smile, nodding in response to her points.
For the past decade or so I’ve been pondering a question: What am I supposed to do in my latter years? I’ve discovered a many-faceted reality as I consider how to answer this question.
For one thing, most people shift from doing to being as they age. Maturity is about laying down the drive to accomplish and focusing in on the present state of being. There is that - definitely. The slowing, stilling and acceptance required to exit this life is an essential task in the final stages of life’s journey.
But when I move my hands to grasp being instead of doing, something slices into me and I withdraw in pain. Because at my core, I’m an achiever. A “three” on the Enneagram. Someone who’s very being is defined by checking items off a list, finishing projects and yes, even writing a blog. The very thought of retirement, which is still a way off because like I said – THREE – freaks me out. Will I just cease to exist – like a zapped bug caught midflight or melt into a waxy blob like the Wicked Witch of the West? (Don’t answer that…)
At last, I’m beginning to discover a leading. A path ahead. For me. Maybe for you as well?
From the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ron Rolheiser, Richard Rohr, Robert Moore, Joan Chittester, John Trent and many more, I’m picking up a new task for my latter years. I’m starting to think that if I achieve it, I will have lived the fullest life God designed for me: I’m here, at this stage of life, to bless the next generations.
Bonhoeffer once suggested that a blessing is visible, perceptible, effective proximity of God. Rolheiser reveals that our English verb “to bless” takes its meaning from the Latin benedicere, literally meaning “to speak well of.” God blesses in the Bible, creating and pronouncing “God saw all that he had made and it was very good,” in Genesis 1:31. Jesus received God’s blessing at his baptism, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased,” (Luke 3:22).
Perhaps a simple definition of blessing is to mirror God’s image in another back to them. To see another the way God sees them and then to communicate that reality to them in a meaningful way.
This might take the form of noticing a wise insight of a leader as she leads and after the interaction, writing her a note and relaying the observation in detail. It could be that we intentionally call out positive characteristics of the younger ones in our lives when we speak of them. Blessing might mean noticing our own internal jealousy of the favor the young attract and moving into the self-work that helps us understand that their rising gifts do not diminish our legacy.
Perhaps most expensive for those who are used to the platform of leadership is the blessing that comes from moving out of the spotlight in order make space for another to shine. To invite younger voices to the microphone. To resign our position so another can be hired. To turn over holiday traditions to the next generation. To clap and cheer – and resist the urge to criticize much less share such criticism – when the youth around us courageously and sometimes idealistically step forward.
When I view this call of blessing as part of my life’s work – actually as my assignment in this season of my life – I find an invitation not to cease achieving but rather to shift the focus of my achievement. I can move from ticking items off my list of accomplishments to turning my efforts toward one action, one job, one role, one achievement: to bless others.
I still get to do. But my being invests in one unique accomplishment: blessing others. From this achievement, I will never be asked to retire.
Elisa Morgan's latest book is You Are Not Alone. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, and Hello, Beauty Full. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.