Have you ever had to buy a can of chickpeas from the supermarket? You would think that this would be an uncomplicated procedure. But for me it wasn’t. As I stood in the aisle, eyeing my options, I felt unsure of what to do. Do I choose the can by a well-known brand, but at an overly inflated price? Do I pick the lesser-known brand at half the cost?
I would like to say that my dilemma was about economics, but it wasn’t. As I stood in the aisle, contemplating my options, I found myself deeply concerned about what my choice of chickpeas said about me. I saw the can of chickpeas as representing my image, and how I wanted others to view me. Surely the more expensive can of chickpeas conveyed an image of strength and success. After all, a higher price-tag surely signifies a higher quality of chickpea, and therefore a higher value. I am ashamed to say that, standing in that aisle, I questioned what the cashier might think of me if approached with can of cheap chickpeas. After all, successful people don’t buy cheap chickpeas, do they?
This argument about canned chickpeas may sound silly, but the truth is, I often have such an argument with myself. Far too often do I concern myself with how others view me; I long for acceptance and recognition. The sad part is, even when these things do come, I often I see myself as less valuable, less worthy, less holy. And so, I try harder, but this only leads to further frustration.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that God blesses everyone else but you? Have you ever felt that, despite your best efforts, you can never climb the spiritual heights needed to “earn” your place in God’s good graces? It’s easy to think this way. Henri Nouwen once wrote that the greatest danger to our spiritual lives is our self-rejection. I know this to be true in my life, at least.
The good news is that Jesus turns around our very idea of blessing. We are not blessed because of the things that we can produce, or that which we can earn. We are not blessed because of what others say of us. Finding our blessedness in such external things only heightens our propensity for self-rejection; we can always find evidence for our own lack. If our sense of being blessed can come crashing down by the struggle over what brand of chickpea we should buy, then perhaps blessing shouldn’t be rooted in such transitory things.
We all have places where we are tempted to feel small, forgotten, or insignificant. Self-rejection takes those places and twists them into a place of condemnation. Jesus offers us a better way to live. He does this by going out of the way to avoid confusing grace with rank, and love with worth. Jesus shunned the perpetual climb toward status and spoke a word of blessing to the poor, the forgotten, the weepy, and the hurting.
A simple way to claim our own blessedness is to embrace our imperfections. Recognize the place within you where you are tempted to reject yourself; then smile, and welcome Jesus there. We aren’t blessed because of our accomplishments. We are blessed because Jesus is with us, and Jesus is with us even in the places where we feel the smallest.
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