My STAR word for 2018 was “favor”.
Noah is said to have found favor with God in the book of Genesis, before the ark project begins.
And Mary, the young girl from Nazareth is greeted by a divine messenger and told “Greetings, favored one!…. You have found favor with God”. She goes on to (spoiler alert!?) give birth to God’s own son, Jesus.
I confess I had no such angelic visits during my year of favor.
Favor is a good word, yet I recognized that favor is often used in our culture to imply some sort of bargaining, with reciprocity. “When you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you“, as the prison warden sings in the musical Chicago.
Favor conjures up political deals or backroom negotiations, which haven’t been working well for us lately.
If one is favored, it seems that it comes at the exclusion of someone else being favored too. Much of the time this past year, favor felt like privilege.
At the root, however, favor means “grace” (in both Biblical Greek and Hebrew). It’s the word that means gift. And the grace of God is an unmerited gift, bestowed not as a political ploy, but out of the deep goodness of God’s mercy and love.
Grace/favor is not something we can hoard and commodify. It is a gift.
I do feel favored, in both the grace way and in the privileged way. This past year, I tried to keep my eyes open to see where favor was needed, and where I could participate in the grace that has saved me (as Marilynne Robinson says in Gilead).
In an era of horrible inequality between rich and poor, and as we are putting kids in cages at the border (still) even as undocumented immigration is at the lowest level in 40 years, we are foolishly pretending we can hoard favor. It’s somehow okay for our grandparents to have immigrated here from Norway, Scotland, Germany, etc, but people at our borders today are somehow all criminal terrorists.
When we believe favor is only for us, it isn’t favor. It’s greed.
God doesn’t dole out favor to only the worthy, or only the rich, or only the politically experienced, or only the powerful.
Noah was kind of a dirtbag by the end of his story, yet God showed him favor. King David is also referred to as favored by God, and many of you know what I think of that. Mary was from a no account town with no money or instagram account, and God called her favored one.
If God can show divine favor on our biblical ancestors with such liberality, can’t we do the same?
If what I have is a benefit only for me, it isn’t favor.
The favor I’ve come to believe in over this past year is one of generosity and abundance. Favor trusts that there is room for a diversity of voices at the table. Favor builds bridges instead of walls. Favor is unexpected blessing, unearned and maybe even undeserved.
I’ve got a new word for 2019 (hello, Beloved) but favor still has work to do in my life.