I am sitting in my living room, looking at a small replica of a massive floor-to-ceiling painting by Chagall. Someday I want to go to Nice and see the real thing. Abraham offering up Isaac. A painting many told us couldn’t exist, because Chagall was Jewish, and the line of bright red that flows through the center of the picture and colors Abraham starts in the brown, shadowy pogrom section where horror reigns, flowing down from a man walking through the middle of the pain carrying a cross. But exist it does, whether I could bear to see it or not.
And I am thinking, the pathway of blessing is often a difficult one. Not the pathway to blessing–not as if gaining a blessing is a herculean quest of attainment that when fulfilled, showers you with ease or luxury or even just success for the rest of your days. No, I’m thinking the pathway of blessing itself. The way of being blessed. The pain that Chagall captures in Abraham’s eyes is not what we think of when we hear the word of God to him in chapter 12 of Genesis: ” I will bless you, and make your name great, and you be a blessing too, and I will . . . .” Isaac, too, had his struggles, and Jacob summarizes his life: “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to . . . my fathers . . .” (Genesis 47:9)
When a woman says to Jesus, “blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed”, his response is “actually, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28). It is a different kind of glory than we are used to. Not a basking in the glory of something we did. It is glorious in ways that are much like the glory of the cross, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, having emptied himself, dwelling among us, taking our suffering upon himself. So we too empty ourselves in the pathway of blessing, hearing the word of God and doing it, when it is fun, and when it is not.
I think these thoughts because our pathway is hard right now. Hori missed two days of work going to doctors, and will miss tomorrow too, going for an MRI, trying to track down ringing ears, dizziness, nausea and vomiting that makes his life miserable and cuts a chunk out of ViBi’s workforce. Uiko, our lead translator, is trying to keep the arm pain at bay. Ogata was gone for almost two months caring for Toshimi in her last days. The financial pain of not being able to offer a full-time wage–only four days a week and a low wage for those days. And translation on the gospel of John, as you can imagine, continues to fall behind schedule.
But this is the pathway of blessing, hearing the word of God and doing it, both when crowds are healed and when death is looming. Thank you for your faithful part in this adventure.
(We put a lot of small items on our Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/pennerasia. If you find the “like” button and click it, that’s a great way to keep up with us and pray.)