Katie Snipes Lancaster
Scripture: Genesis 32: 26–28
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
Spiritual Practice: Blessing Others
In a major moment of transition in Jacob’s journey home, anticipating possible conflict with his brother who he had wronged and not knowing what the future would hold, Jacob and his family camp on the bank of a river. That night, Jacob slept out apart from the rest of the camp. In the middle of the night, someone came upon Jacob and wrestled with him. Was it an angel? Was it God? A stranger in the night? We just know that it was an ordeal. And, the story goes, even though he was nearly defeated and already injured, Jacob would not let go of the strong wrestling partner until he was given a blessing.
Jacob was in search of a blessing: he asked for it. Maybe he needed the blessing for the day ahead, the anticipated struggle of returning home amidst conflict. Maybe he needed blessing for the days before, an exhaustion unknown. Maybe he needed a blessing for that moment, a struggle in the night that pushed him to see God face to face. Whatever the need, he asked for a blessing and he received one.
We don’t always ask for a blessing though. We don’t always say: I won’t leave until you bless me. But I suspect we all walk around in need of a blessing anyway. And so, this spiritual practice of blessing others is a rich vein of need: the people in your household, the people in your workplace, the people in your neighborhood and community, the stranger you have yet to meet are all in need of a blessing. And, you are called in your own way to be the one who offers that blessing with words spoken aloud or written down, with a gesture, with a silent prayer shared in a glance. You are the one who can offer that unasked for but much needed blessing. (Not sure where to start? I love Jan Richardson and John O’Donohue who both have beautiful books of blessings to help you think about what your own blessings might sound like).
God of blessing,
Help us to bless one another,
For we are each in need of that tender blessing,
One that invokes your presence,
One that names our need,
One that names our very being in this complex situation.
Help us to bless one another.