There is a branch of Christianity (some refuse to see it as such) which ascribes to the idea that blessings (doing well) in this life is proof that things are good between an individual and God. To be terribly 1950s about it, this is the stay at home mom with perfect kids and the dad driving a shiny new car and cleaning the pool in the backyard, who tell everyone God has been so good to them. Or the pastor today with a private jet thanking God for his “platform.” Gratitude is great but the argument that worldly blessing (and the implication that those struggling are somehow not blessed beloved by God) well that is too far.
Around Christmas we sometimes can get into such ideas as we get closer to old friends and family and everyone is thinking about (and talking about and writing letters about) the year that was. Some are just bragging, some are raw and the year has been hard, some are hopeful…it’s a big world with lots of experiences happening at the same time. Part of what this means is that we can compare ourselves or our loved ones with others, or to their protected selves at least.
It doesn’t work and it doesn’t help and it doesn’t lead you to where you want to go.
Even if you think you are ‘winning’ I think this is a painful position for us all to be in because we learn to equate our sense of being loved or belonging with our (mostly material) accomplishments when what we actually want (need???) is to sense that we belong for who we are, that without endless striving we could be hugged and loved and accepted.
This is part of why I love the of the psalmist who writes, “come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul” Psalm 66.16. This is in contrast to showing ones fields and lands and cattle and wives and children and cars, and phones, and vacation pictures. This is saying that what I want to talk about, maybe even boast about, is what has been going on in my soul and where I see God at work in it. Today we might hear this as one speaks of peace after chaos, sobriety after addiction, or reconciliation after infidelity. It gives hope to others rather than speaking jealousy or creating a divide as people get turned off by ones boasting.
How would you describe the state of your soul these days? How have you seen God at work in the world lately? These are far more interesting than the mileage your new car gets.
In order to answer you must pay attention to your soul, maybe give it more attention than you do your bank account. Can you take as little as 5 minutes per calendar event to reflect upon your soul’s wellbeing? How can you witness to God’s work in your life? Maybe you are feeling like the better questions have to do with where you need God to work in your life, that’s ok too. The point is to focus on things that matter and to help others do the same.