“Where are their gods … who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their libations?” – Deuteronomy 32:37-38 (NRSVUE)
They say that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. Then again, they say a lot of things.
When I was a local church pastor, the most important thing to say in the words of welcome at each service was that everyone was welcome, regardless of identity. Now that I’m a university chaplain, that’s still true, but there’s something more urgent. Every Sunday, I say some version of: “Here, nobody is demanding anything from you. Nobody needs you to perform, or excel, or prove. No one is grading you, no one is ranking you. There is no looming deadline. All you have to do to be beloved is to be.”
This is a rarity for these students. Virtually every person they come in contact with demands sacrifice in exchange for blessing. Sleep, free time, hobbies, mental health, physical health, relationships are presented on the altars of the gods of grades, internships, class position, grad programs, parental regard, the regard of postulated future bosses.
Many of these students have not yet learned what worth they have apart from their achievements, nor have they decided how that worth compares to the blessings offered by these gods. I want to make sure there’s at least one person in their lives trying to convince them that their worth is beyond both measure and achievement, and that there’s a God out there who blesses without sacrifice.
I want to be sure they know that their value is not a product, that neither is love, and that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice for either.
For goodness I don’t have to pray for, for blessing I don’t have to earn, thank you. Amen.