Blessings Upon Blessings

There’s a wonderful, little-known story in the Bible about a frightened king who wants to curse his enemies (the Israelites encamped on his border), a sorcerer with a big ego, a sword-wielding angel of the Lord, and a talking donkey.

One day the frightened king seeks out a famous sorcerer, Balaam, to come and curse the Israelites. At first, the sorcerer refuses because God tells him not to go. But when the king sends his most important officials offering oodles of money, Balaam the Sorcerer saddles up his donkey to go and do the king’s bidding.

While Balaam is enroute to see the king, God sends a sword-wielding angel to stop him. When the angel shows up only the donkey can see him, and it successfully escapes the angel’s sword three times. Balaam, embarrassed in front of the other men and angry at his donkey, beats it each time. When God opens the donkey’s mouth, it asks why is it being beaten when it has always been so loyal? Then the donkey tells Balaam about the angel with the sword. Suddenly, Balaam’s eyes are opened. He falls to the ground, remorseful, and asks the angel what he is to do. The angel instructs him to go see the king and speak only the words God puts into his mouth. When Balaam meets the king, the king orders him to curse the Israelites, but all that comes out of Balaam’s mouth are blessings. The king is so angry at Balaam he tries to get him to curse the Israelites three more times, but Balaam can only speak blessings.

This story reminded me of something I read recently—if you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it to others.1 That’s exactly what Balaam did to his donkey. Embarrassed in front of those high-ranking officials, his ego was wounded. He took out his anger, shame, and frustration on his donkey. Initially he couldn’t transform his pain, so he transmitted it.

When I first read this statement, I couldn’t help but think of all the pain, trauma, suffering, shame, greed, jealousy, pride, anger—and whatever else—that is being transmitted in our nation and our world right now. It plays out in mass shootings and on social media. It plays out in our politics and in environmental policies. It plays out in our personal lives and our communal lives. I also reflected on the times when I haven’t healed my own pain and have taken it out on others—especially those closest to me. It breaks my heart to see all the unhealed pain that is being transmitted right now.

In living a contemplative life, we have a growing desire to transform ourselves so that we might offer blessings instead of curses. Offering blessings is deeply transformative—in doing so we grow in love and compassion for our neighbors who are transmitting what they haven’t yet transformed.

A colleague of mine decided that while she was on sabbatical she would stand on sidewalks in different cities and towns to bless people. She put out a sidewalk sign that said, “Ask me for a blessing.” She later wrote about how moving these experiences were as people shared their pain and tears while they received their blessing. What a healing and cleansing experience for both giver and receiver!

Our world is in such desperate need of blessings upon blessings. As you go about your day today perhaps you could offer prayers of blessing to all those you encounter—even strangers. As God blesses us, how can we not bless others out of gratitude and great love as we look upon others with the eyes of God? In blessing those around us, maybe we will sense God’s transformative power flowing through us to heal those around us—and maybe we will be blessed by the blessings we give.

Blessed are you who knows how much harder it is to transform rather than transmit.
Blessed are you for journeying into your pain and sorrow so that you might find wholeness and joy.
Blessed are you for wanting to bless rather than curse.
Blessed are you for daring to hope that this world can be transformed.
Blessed are you who seeks God in all things with a grateful heart.
Blessed are you whose eyes are opened to God’s many blessings all around you.

1 Paraphrased from Cameron Trimble. “Where’s the Hope?” Piloting Faith: An (almost) Daily Devotional from Convergence.

August 08, 2022 by Christina Williams 3 Comments
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Elizabeth Mackowiak
Elizabeth Mackowiak
1 year ago

Fantastic! Fr Richard Rohr has been trying to get the ytasformation of our pain message out there for some years. Maybe with the story it will get across. Thank you!

Ron Spann
Ron Spann
1 year ago

Was about to add the same, your source was paraphrasing a Richard Rohr maxim, “pain/ suffering that is not transformed is transmitted”…

Barbara Osborne
Barbara Osborne
1 year ago

Wonderfully expressed. Thank you.


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