I left our church service today in tears. They weren’t tears of sadness or hurt, but an overflow from my spirit at the goodness of God, and the sweetness of His voice, and the many utterly cool and precious things He had to gift me today in one short hour of my pastor’s teaching.
I am as thankful as a human being can be for my church. I’m thankful for the constant through-the-Bible teaching (chapter by chapter, verse by verse, Genesis to Revelations and back around again), and for the uncompromising message of grace and forgiveness that goes out every Sunday, Wednesday, and Tuesdays and Thursday and Saturdays too. I’m thankful for our pastors and teachers. I’m thankful for the body who not only sits there and hears the word, but actually puts it into practice.
My pastor spoke today about the Patriarchal Blessing. This blessing is recorded in the Old Testament, given from father to son. The three components of the blessing were a touch (the father would place his hand upon the head of his son), a studied evaluation (the father has studied his son, learned his strengths, his leanings, his weaknesses and knows him), and a prediction of what the son will become. This blessing was normally reserved for the eldest son, but there are examples of it being given to younger sons, the most notorious being Jacob, who tricked his blind father, Isaac, and stole his elder brother Esau’s blessing.
How important still is that blessing from our earthly father? How influential is it, and what can be lacking in a young man or woman (or even an older one), who never had that blessing bestowed? Never heard words from a father or a mother, words of affirmation and encouragement, words of identity that could help a young person along the path of who God intends them to become, what He intends them to do?
So there I was sitting, taking in this teaching on at least two levels. One for myself, in thankfulness that I had parents who constantly affirmed me, recognized what talents I had, and encouraged me to pursue them, made me feel that they thought I was special, that I would succeed if I only pressed on. The second concerns my main character from KINDRED, Ian Cameron (and the reason I’m posting about this here on my novel journal).
Here it is over four years since I began writing this book, and every day of those four+ years I've spent thinking about Ian, or actively writing about him, pondering his history, his soul, his spirit, and not until today has it hit home to me that what Ian has lacked all his life IS THE PATRIARCHAL BLESSING. I’ve thought of him as a prodigal, and in many people’s eyes I suppose he is—including his own. But that never sat exactly right in my heart. He never set out to rebel against his father and family at first. Circumstances conspired against him, and (due mainly to 18C male notions of honor) he was unable to explain himself, or seek his father’s aid. Therefore his father was left to think the worst of him, and withheld what guidance he might have given at a crucial crisis point in Ian's late teen years. Thereafter Ian felt himself cursed, not blessed, by his father. Which accounts absolutely for his “unsteady conduct” as they would have put it in the 18C--his lack of direction, wasting of time, allowing events and other people to toss him about like a bit of flotsam on a flood. He doesn’t know who, or what, he is meant to be. His father never told him.
So I’m sitting in church, already sending up a Hallelujah chorus in my heart to the Lord for this most needful insight. And then, as if that weren’t enough good stuff for one Sunday, my pastor read 3 John: 5-6. “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well….”
Ah... so we can all be “fathers” in the sense that as a church we get to pass along this blessing to one another. We get to be those who touch, who pay attention, who make a study of each other for the purpose of expressing words that build each other up, that encourage, that define, that bless, that help each other along on our journey toward heaven. Yes and amen! But yanno what popped into my mind when this verse was read (remember I was taking all this in on more than one level today)?
The Underground Railroad.
“If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well.”
As I’ve mentioned here before, the grass roots beginnings of the URR is a topic I explore in KINDRED, mainly through the character of Thomas Ross, Ian's free black boyhood friend, who goes south to Carolina with him and has his own adventures. I can't help seeing how these verses can be applied to those who helped escaped slaves reach freedom and sanctuary in the north, and in Canada. This scripture applies both to the spiritual and to the practical in that harrowing situation. There’s a novel in there, to be sure!
As the service concluded, I was eager to hurry home and write all this down, so I wouldn't lose a bit of it, not the inspirations for the book, nor what the Lord had stirred up in my own heart. And THEN, as if all this wasn’t enough, within five minutes two people took that message to heart and spoke a word to me (in one case, literally one precious, defining word) that blessed and encouraged me. I'm telling you, it works. Pay attention to the people around you, and bless them by speaking out the good that you see in them. I take this exhortation to heart.
As for this notion of Ian’s having lacked the Patriarchal Blessing, and who it is that ultimately pronounces it upon him (I have two candidates in mind), how he recognizes it and what he does with it, I'm going to let it stew for a bit, and see how I can work it in when I begin my next edit. If things stay true to form, I'll find that the framework for it is already there, embedded in the thousands of words already written. My prayer is that God makes that framework pop out at me as I edit, so I can strengthen this theme.
To learn more about the Patriarchal Blessing, why it's important, and how to bestow it, check out my pastor Jon Courson’s teaching from today at the Applegate Christian Fellowship, HERE. You’ll want to click on the link to the left that says Recent Service – Sunday, October 5. Audio and Video versions available.