I'm quoting Moses:
'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.'
This is from Numbers 6:24-26.
I didn't know where that beautiful couple of verses was from but I am entirely familiar with it as quite often our church services close with those very words. I like the sound of it. I like the blessing. The other day for some reason when I came upon it in its natural habitat in the early bit of the Bible (I can't remember why I was poking around in Numbers) it suddenly became three dimensional instead of a stock phrase to send us on our way just after midday on a Sunday (in the name of Christ - Amen).
You know what? Moses was talking to me. I'm going to ask him about this when I track him down in Heaven. I'm going to ask him if he had any vague idea of the momentousness of these words. If he suspected at the back of his mind that we would bow our heads as they were spoken over us centuries later.
The Lord bless you and keep you...
Yes, you do, don't you? I am blessed in more ways than I know. I am blessed to be your child, I am blessed materially beyond the dreams of most of the world. I am blessed with health, with family, with ideas, with clean water and eyes to see the way the low winter sun glows orange on the tree branches outside my daughter's school.
I am blessed with every new day that I wake up once more and blessed with opportunities to do something new for you. I am blessed with choices, freedom, the ability to think and speak and the permission and safety to do it knowing that no-one is going to come knocking at my door to take me away for saying that I love you, Jesus.
Blessed? I am.
You keep me. I firmly believe that if you forgot about me for a moment I would cease to be. I am because you made me and you look after me. You know me inside out and you knew the course my life would take from the moment two cells joined together. You know exactly what I'm going to say before I say it and you know the efforts I make to please you and the times when I don't. You keep me safe. You keep me close. You keep me under your wing. You don't miss a single thing.
The Lord make his face shine upon you...
I love this. I love that light shines from you, because you are the origin of light. I love that to see you face to face will be the day when there is no longer any darkness, because there can be none when there is light. I love that with your light is warmth and life; you are the Sun. When I turn towards you, I am lit up, but I will always have a dark and cold side so long as there is part of me that faces away. Too often I turn away from you, hiding, retreating, recoiling.
You are beautiful. Transcending male or female, beyond my imagination, beyond handsome or pretty or anything that I can get my head round; you are the source of all that is beautiful.
'From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines in perfect radiance.'
Your face, it shines radiant. You are the source of all life-giving light. I want to bask in that light, soak it up so that my bones are warmed through.
...and be gracious to you...
You are endlessly gracious. In the words of Ann Voskamp* 'All is grace.' Every new day, every ray of sunlight, every shower.
'But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.' Psalm 86:15
Every time I hear the birds sing, the children laugh, the congregation lift its collective voice with the angels. Every snowflake, ice crystal, drop of dew on a spider's web.
'The Lord has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.' Psalm 111:4
Each time my little girl slips her small hand into mine, every little love note that she writes, every time my head sinks into a soft pillow.
'The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.' Psalm 116:5
Every time you forgive me for some laziness, selfishness, meanness; a raised voice, some critical remark, a hurtful act.
'The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.' Psalm 103:7
All is grace. You cannot but be gracious.
The Lord turn his face towards you...
Sometimes when I'm concentrating on something and my daughters want me they grasp my face with their two hands and turn my head towards them. Since my eyes face forwards, my gaze is torn away from whatever it was that I was intent upon and rests on them. They have my attention. I don't need to do that with you; you're never distracted, never focused somewhere else at my expense. You are always there, always noticing. Your face is always turned towards me, loving, forgiving, expectant.
Like a smiling Daddy when his children want to tell him something, I see you stooping low to hear. Down on one knee, beckoning. Looking intently, listening carefully, encouraging, caring. Your face is towards me. I feel your gaze. I can't live without it.
...and give you peace.
Ah. Peace. Elusive peace. I do have your peace, sometimes. I love that feeling; it's the best thing in the world - beyond the world. Sometimes I get a glimpse of what life might be like if I could somehow stop worrying completely and rest in your arms. I sense that there is a whole new way to live out there beyond the anxiety and self-consciousness and need to be accepted. Peace. Rest.
'My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.' John 14:27
You give it to me and what on earth do I do with it? I let it slip through my fingers as I reach for the familiar; 'what if...?' and 'if only..'. I long for peace and then walk past it because I don't stop long enough to find it, or I don't recognise it because I'm so used to stress and anxiety.
You would have me live quite differently, wouldn't you? You encourage me to leave my problems with you, to take each day as it comes, to live right here and right now instead of regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. You would infuse me with peace instead of striving, peace instead of fear, peace instead of apprehension.
There's an endless supply of peace for me. Every time I let it slip away, you are there to give me more if I could just learn how to accept it. If I could just trust you more, take you at your word instead judging you by the standards of the world, if I could just open my clenched fists and drop all things of no value that I clutch so tightly so that you could give me this most precious of gifts - then I would have peace.
I hear the blessing and I whisper 'Amen' and I turn and leave church, shouldering my hassles at the door. How perverse am I?
I have a long way to go. At times like this I realise that although I am making progress, I have so much to learn. I am an adolescent in when it comes to spiritual maturity, but I can say this:
You are my God. I am your child.
The Lord blesses me and keeps me.
He makes his face shine upon me and he is gracious to me; the Lord turns his face towards me and gives me peace.
Yes he does.
* One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp 2011, Zondervan
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