Epiphany 4: Blessing in the Chaos


Shimmers Within the Storm © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 4, Year B: Mark 1.21-28

In his brilliant essay “To Retrieve the Lost Art of Blessing,” John O’Donohue writes, “The force of a blessing can penetrate through and alter the inner configuration of identity. When the gift or need of the individual coincides with the incoming force of the blessing, great change can begin.”

This kind of change and reconfiguration means that a blessing is not always a comfortable and cozy thing. Sometimes the blessing most needed is one that involves confrontation and calling out, that requires standing against what is not of God. Such a blessing may be difficult to give—or to receive. It calls us to acknowledge and challenge and grapple with forces that thrive within chaos, forces that often work in ways that are exceedingly subtle and cloaked and require even more wisdom and discernment of us than when such forces take clear and obvious forms.

But, as Jesus shows us in this passage where we see him healing a man in the grip of a destructive spirit, such a blessing—the blessing that comes in facing the chaos rather than turning away from it, the blessing that comes in naming what is contrary to God’s purposes rather than letting it persist unchecked—makes way for the wholeness we crave. It brings release to what has been bound; it invites and enables and calls us to move with the freedom for which God made us.

“The human heart,” writes John O’Donohue in his essay, “continues to dream of a state of wholeness, a place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of a life’s journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now.”

Is there some part of you that has become bound—that recognizes what is holy and craves its blessing, but fears the change that would be involved? Is there a habit, a belief, a relationship, an aspect of your life that has you in its grip, that confines you, that limits the freedom with which you move through this world—perhaps without your even realizing it? Can you imagine what release would look like? Is there a destructive force at work in a person or system or institution you’re connected with, that you might be called to engage? Can you identify a first step that would help you confront what confines you or those around you?

Here is a blessing I’ve written for you. This day, this week, may you give and receive the blessing that will help you and yours enter more deeply into wholeness. Peace to you.

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic
in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
cease.
Let what divides you
cease.
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
possible
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

–Jan Richardson

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Epiphany 4: In the Realm of the Spirits

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Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Shimmers Within the Storm,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

The John O’Donohue quotations are from his book To Bless the Space Between Us.

10 Responses to “Epiphany 4: Blessing in the Chaos”

  1. Maureen Says:

    Your poem seems written for the particular difficulties I face now. Thank you for affirming the possibility of finding again the peace that will come on “see[ing] what shimmers within the storm”.

    Your tea (prayer)book is charming!

  2. Mary Ann Sinclair Says:

    Jan, I love you for what you bring to the table! I have taken a course that has linked creativity to chaos. Without chaos, there is no nudge. It has allowed me to view the chaos in my life as a friendly force…Spirit driven.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Mary Ann! It’s great to hear from you, and I so appreciate your words. Yes—amen to creativity and chaos being linked! My creative life definitely is intimately involved with chaos (you should see my studio!), and I can’t imagine creativity and artfulness taking place without chaos.

      I think what makes a difference in what direction the chaos goes in—whether it overwhelms/harms/destroys (as was happening with the man whom Jesus heals in this story) or whether it brings forth creativity and life—is our willingness to be open to how God appears to us in the chaos, and to receive and live into the blessing that God offers there. If we can do this, then we’re able to enter into that creative process that chaos can nudge us toward. If we can’t do this, or aren’t willing to, the chaos can start spinning out of control and take over our lives in devastating ways.

      I’m so grateful for the ways you engage the chaos and for the beautiful creativity you bring forth! Blessings to you.

  3. Laurie Says:

    Jan, as always, you have propelled me through a thinly veiled doorway into a deep space of profound thinking. Your words have provided me some tools for sorting through some of the ponderings I have been faced with after a period of isolation due to mother nature and power outages. When the world suddenly becomes very guiet and dark, it is amazing how much we must acknowledge. And when the world suddenly lights back up, re-entry can be a challenge. Thanks for this blessing on this day.

  4. steve Says:

    Jan,
    I often find in your writing the calming sense of direction I need to bring focus to my sermon thoughts. The blessing shared today has done just that.
    With ccredit to you, it will be my post-sermon prayer this week, and my personal blessing of renewal. thanks so much.

  5. Nancy Says:

    I usually sign my emails and letters “Light Blessings” or “Love and Blessings,” and I think of this closing as a hug, a final note letting the recipient know I am thinking of them and wish them well. This post makes me realize how much more active and forceful blessings can be. How often we hear or even say “Bless her heart,” as sort of a light remark upon hearing something sweet or innocent or even well-meaning, but missing the mark. Instead, by invoking a blessing we are intending to clear the way for transformation

  6. Kellyann Says:

    Blessing in the Chaos: I read this as I was discerning the need to leave my church home of the past many years. It was really painful, and I’d been fighting it for over a year, but this poem keeps delivering me and giving me glimpses of grace. Thank you. Thank you especially for reminding me that God has the final claim on me.

    Peace be with you.

  7. Jane Kimidy Says:

    I am preparing for a weekend with dear women and friends and have come upon some of these beautiful prayers and reflections. This one really strikes a chord for me. I have also found this beautiful music peace by Margaret Rizza that goes so beautifully with this prayer.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Jane, thanks so much for your words and the video link; how lovely! Sending gratitude and many blessings as you prepare for the weekend with dear ones.

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