I’m a father to three sons who are now all teenagers. I’m continually amazed at each one’s uniqueness. They are a great blessing to me. When all three of them were young children, I took some training in spiritual direction at the Pecos Benedictine Abbey in New Mexico.
One of the gifts of that experience was witnessing rhythms and patterns of spoken blessing. When I returned home from four weeks of living this rhythm of life, community and ministry, I had a deep desire to express this rhythm of blessing with my sons.
At first, I simply improvised words of blessing, usually at bedtime, with each one. As I expressed words of affection, value and hopeful expectation, I increasingly sensed the voice of the Father expressing His heart to me. God told Abraham that he was being blessed so as to be a blessing to others. I was experiencing the blessing that came to me in blessing my sons.
Over time, a kind of family liturgy took shape. Our nighttime blessing took the following form:
Dad: The Lord be with you.
Son: And also with you.
Dad: May Almighty God bless you, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
Dad: Go (or sleep) in peace
Son: Thanks be to God.
These words are, of course, a very common liturgy of pastoral/congregational blessing. I’m not claiming they are original with me. I’ve often used them when saying farewell when preparing to leave on a ministry trip.
My wife began to enter into this rhythm herself, eventually landing on the following simple daily expression:
You are a child of God,
Holy and beloved,
A chosen friend of Jesus,
And a godly influencer of many.
Because our sons are patient and very kind, they still put up with us blessing them in these simple little expressions now that they are in their teens. I often bless them as I embrace them individually. Over the last decade, we’ve spoken these words to our sons thousands of times.
Our youngest son often struggled with fears at night. He’s the one gifted with a mighty imagination. Again, I began by praying certain scriptures over him at bedtime to help him feel safer and less afraid. Over time, that blessing also took a specific form. He came to call it the “scared blessing,” and he often asked me for it at bedtime.
May God’s love cast out every fear.
May God’s peace
guard your heart from every worry.
May God’s presence
keep you from ever feeling alone.
May God’s Spirit
protect your thoughts and dreams
until you awake in the morning
and remember again
that God’s love is new and fresh for you.
When I’ve been mindful, this rhythm of blessing has become a place of letting God the Father bless my heart, express His care, His affection, and His hopeful expectation for my life. There are times when these have been very holy moments between father and son, and Father and son.
If you have children or grandchildren, how might God invite you to speak words of blessing to them?
How is God desiring to express words of blessing to you right where you find yourself today?
Alan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.