Our trip to Peru in 2011 to visit our son and his family included a visit to Machu Picchu. In order to get there, we first flew into the city of Cusco high in the Andes mountains. After we finished our tours for the day in and around Cusco and had dinner, we took some time to do a little more exploring of the Plaza de Armas—Cusco’s central square. Bordering the square are the Cusco Cathedral on the north and the Company of Jesus Church on the east, with various shops and restaurants on the south and west. As we had toured the Cathedral earlier in the day, we turned our focus to the Company of Jesus Church. The church itself wasn’t open to tours at the time, but there was a small room just to the north of the main doors that was open. When we walked past the room, we saw that they were having an arts and craft show featuring the work of local artists. I am drawn like a moth to a flame to these kinds of shows, so in we went.
As arts and crafts shows go, this one was quite small. There were displays of jewelry and clothing on three long tables set up in a U shape in the back part of the room and more clothing displayed on a couple of hanging racks. The thing that caught my eye, however, were some shelves set up in the middle of the U towards the front of the room. Displayed on these shelves were pottery and other sculpted items. Because we were on vacation, I was keeping my eye out for souvenirs. I wasn’t interested in the kinds of things we saw at every market along the way, I was looking for things that were unique, things that I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else. As I looked at the various items for sale, I kept coming back to a small sculpture of four musicians sitting on a bench. The musicians were sculpted of clay and painted with a dark brown glaze of some kind. The bench they sat on was made of what looked like pieces of scrap wood that had also been stained brown. My husband thought they were kind of ugly; I thought they were quirky and definitely unique. I debated back and forth about whether or not I should buy them. Even though the piece wasn’t very expensive, no more than about $20 if I remember correctly, I decided maybe I shouldn’t buy it. But I really liked these boys in the band—they spoke to me. Finally, in exasperation, my son solved the problem by picking the sculpture up and buying it. We took the piece back to our hotel room, and the longer my husband looked at it, the more he decided he liked “The Boys.” They now sit on the mantle of my front room fireplace; every time I look at them, they make me smile.
I think many of the blessings God desires to give us are like my Boys. They are out there, not really hiding, but not necessarily in plain sight, either. In order to receive these blessings, God requires us to seek them out, sometimes in out-of-the-way places. Often these blessings are in the events of our everyday lives. For example, my eight-month-old granddaughter has been trying to crawl for about a month now. It has been plain to see in her body language that she knew there was a way for her to get where she wanted to go, but she just couldn’t figure it out. She’s been doing the rocking back and forth on her knees maneuver for several weeks, but any movement was always in reverse. Then last night, her mother posted a video on Facebook of her crawling across the floor to get to the toy she wanted. There is such a sense of triumph in that 30-second clip. Like the Boys sitting on my fireplace, it makes me smile. And that’s a blessing. Watching her progress reminds me that I, too, can acquire the skills I desire if I just keep working at it. Being reminded of that principle is a blessing as well.
God’s blessings also come in the form of tribulations and trials. Understandably, these blessings are often the most difficult to recognize. I think back to 18 months ago when we found out that my husband had cancer. At first, the only feelings I had were disbelief and dismay. But as friends and family prayed for us, I began to feel buoyed up by those many pleadings in our behalf (See Praying for Peter Prostate). Though the outcome was still uncertain, I felt at peace and knew that whatever happened, things would be ok. This was a blessing for me on a couple of levels. First the comfort and calmness that I felt in the face of difficulty enabled me to go on with my daily activities without being overcome by anxiety and despair—a HUGE blessing for me. Second, the peace I felt was evidence to me that God knew me and was aware of my concerns and fears. I knew he cared about me and my husband and would sustain us through whatever the future brought. I had never experienced this before. In fact, in my limitation mindset, I had believed that either I couldn’t have these feelings or that God wouldn’t give this blessing to me. Learning that both of these perceptions were lies was another blessing I received in connection with that trial.
The other thing I learned about God’s blessings from the Boys in the band is that we must be willing to receive them; we must pick them up off the shelf and pay the price to make them ours. I know that far too often I see a blessing sitting on a shelf just waiting for me to claim it, but instead, I pass it by. In fact, I was told by a religious leader one time that God had many blessings to give me if I would just receive them. So what stops me from receiving the blessings God wants to give me? I’m not sure, but I suspect it has something to do with fear. Sometimes I am afraid the price for the blessing will be beyond my capacity to pay, and sometimes I fear that someone like me (whatever that means) isn’t allowed to have that particular blessing.
The capacity to perceive and the willingness receive God’s blessings is something I’m still working on. In my head, it all seems like a “No duh!” proposition, but my in my heart I’m still at the rocking-back-and-forth-on-my-hands-and-knees stage, wanting to move forward but not quite knowing how yet. Fortunately, I have both God and the Boys in the band to cheer me on as I continue becoming who I am yet to be.