-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (p. 203)
I'd never thought of it that way before.
Later in the chapter ("12. The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings -- Benediction") the author talks about what it can do to us to bless everyone -- "Practice blessing something simply because it exists alongside you and find out what your mind does with that exercise. [...] Notice what happens inside you as the blessing goes out of you, toward something that does not deserve it, that may even repel it. If you can bless a stinking dump, surely someone can bless you" (p. 203).
I thought of her invitation in an earlier chapter ("6. The Practice of Encountering Others -- Community") to meet the eyes of the people we encounter (e.g. cashiers), to take a moment to really recognize them as human. And ("4. The Practice of Walking on the Earth -- Groundedness") her invitation to be aware of our physical surroundings, to be attentive to them and to see them as beautiful.
And I was also reminded of Namaste -- "The Divine in me recognizes and honors, the Divine in you."
So as I headed home after work today I made it a point to try to actually look at each person who passed me or whom I passed or who was near me and to think, "I bless you."
I did not have any profound reaction to the experience, but I know that it is good for me to practice reminding myself that ALL PEOPLE are beloved children of God.
"When Christians speak of the mystery of the incarnation, this is what they mean: for reasons beyond anyone's understanding, God has decided to be made known in flesh. Matter matters to God. The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility. Pronouncing blessings upon them is the least we can do" (p. 201).
I have a friend who did not sleep through the night for years because of a dreadful dream he had. [...]
One night---in the dream---it occurred to him that what the demon wanted from him was his blessing. That was the only thing that would end the demon's agony. That was the only thing that would make it go away. So he opened the door with his guts on fire and his hands in front of his face.
"I bless you," he said to the demon, "and I bid you go where God wants you to go." But saying it once was not enough. He had to say it over and over again, as many different ways as he could think of to say it, for what seemed in the dream like close to an hour. It was as if the demon could not get enough of the blessing. It was as if no one had ever blessed him before.
"I bless you," my friend said for the hundredth time, "now go in peace." Making a sound like a kitten, the demon turned around and never came back.
This last piece of wisdom may be only for those who are very advanced at blessing prayers, but what most of them say is that pronouncing a blessing puts you as close to God as you can get. To learn to look with compassion on everything that is; to see past the terrifying demons outside to the bawling hearts within; to make the first move toward the other, however many time as it takes to get close; to open your arms to what is instead of waiting until it is what it should be; to surrender the justice of your own cause for mercy; to surrender the priority of your own safety for love---this is to land at God's breast.
To pronounce a blessing on something is to see it from the divine perspective. To pronounce a blessing is to participate in God's own initiative. To pronounce a blessing is to share God's own audacity. This may be why blessing prayers make some people uncomfortable. As a loyal churchwoman once said in my hearing, "I don't want to be that important." Yet she relied on me, her priest, to say the blessings she was unwilling to say herself---because she knew they were necessary, because she needed to hear a human voice pronouncing God's blessing on her the same way she needed food and water, because otherwise she might give in to the insistent idea that she truly was not important, that both she and the whole world including the people she loved, were without any significant meaning.
She counted on me to raise my hands in the air on a regular basis and ask God to bless her. She belonged to a whole congregation that was willing to pay people like me so that we would not be otherwise engaged when they needed one of us to lay hands on a baby, or a sick person, or a loaf of bread, or one of them. They did not need anyone to tell them that blessings confer meaning. They could feel it when a blessing landed on them, like warm oil poured on their crowns of their heads.