The most beautiful person I ever met was in her 60s and suffering the effects of Parkinson's Disease. Her name was Charlene Shurtz. She was the grandmother of my daughter-in-love, Jen, who is married to my son, Tyler, and my son-in-love, Jonathan, who is married to my daughter, Kaley. (Yes, siblings married siblings, so I am doubly blessed:) The very first time I met Charlene, the first thing I noticed was the dancing sparkle of joy in her eyes. Looking back, it seemed her body could not hold such joy, so it had no choice but to radiate from her beautiful blue eyes. Her sense of humor was mischievous. I remember her gift to Jen at a bridal shower of a nightie that was anything BUT dour, and Jen's reaction of "GRANDMA!!!" Charlene's impish and delighted smile lit up the room:) When she was in town, she and her daughter, Kathy, would invite me to lunch and honestly, I would treasure and still do the moments I had just to be in the presence of such a great example of faith. Charlene bowed her pain in worship. She never let her pain or discomfort keep her from enjoying a beloved granddaughter's bridal shower or spending time with friends and family. And the truth is...you cannot fake that kind of inner peace, exuberant joy and lavish love for others. She could have been discouraged, felt sorry for herself, embarrassed of her failing health and "checked-out" on living life, but I am certainly thanking God she didn't. She has been my beacon now for years.
And isn't that what bowing your pain in worship ultimately does??? Doesn't it provide hope and promise to those who follow behind us? Over thirty years ago I had a difficult miscarriage. I was rushed to the emergency room and to make a long, sad story short...I spent the night listening to babies being born while I lost mine. Nothing went easy or normal. Two days later when I came home, I was a changed person. I remember thinking I would rather have physical pain any day than this deep, aching, heartbreaking pain of loss and grief. Thirty years later would I change my life? If I could, would I sweep away the pain I felt during those dark days? Never. Not for a million dollars. Through the years, time after time, the Lord has brought across my path young women who are in the midst of the pain and loss of a baby, and I know their pain...I can still feel it. I know what to say and what NOT to say. I can tell them you WILL make it through. Is my pain of miscarriage worship bowed to the Lord? It is my sweetest worship given every time another precious woman reeling from such a great loss comes my way. I bow it again and again with a grateful heart for the value He has given to the pain I endured.
I had to smile at the "carrot, egg, and coffee" analogy Linda gave in this chapter, "I Bow My Pain." I'll give a quick synopsis here: A young woman told her mom the pain in her life was so unbearable she was thinking of just giving up. Her mom took her into the kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed carrots in one, eggs in another and ground coffee beans in the last and then set them on to boil. Twenty minutes later, she pulled the carrots and eggs from the water and placed them in bowls and ladled coffee into a cup. She asked her daughter what she saw and her daughter said, "Eggs, carrots and coffee." The mom asked her to really take a good look at the carrots and eggs and the daughter then noted the carrots had become soft while the eggs had become hard. The coffee on the other hand had become rich and flavorful. This wise mom went on to explain that all three had faced the same adversity...boiling water...but each had reacted differently. The carrots had been strong, but came out weak. The fragile eggs became hardened, but the coffee had changed the water!
So then the question is: Which are you? Carrot, egg or coffee? I thought and thought about that question. I remembered past difficulties, pressures, worries, painful experiences both physical and emotional and I came to this conclusion: I go in a carrot or an egg and sometime during the "boiling process" praise God! He turns me into coffee!:) I wish I could remember one time that I went in ground beans and came out coffee...but I can't. I usually have my "carrot" moments: "I can't do this...This is too difficult...I quit!" And I sometimes have my "egg" moments: "I am done, Done, DONE! I don't care anymore! Forget it all!!!" For me, all of this carrot and egg stuff is "grinding the coffee beans" to get me to become the coffee that I truly want to be. The older I get, the shorter my carrot and egg processes are and the more quickly I surrender, allowing the Great Coffee Maker in the Sky to have His better way with me and my life.
I never saw my friend, Charlene's, carrot or egg moments...she was always, always coffee around me. I am pretty sure if Charlene where still here, she would tell us she had plenty, but she found bowing her pain in worship to be far richer and more satisfying then allowing circumstances of pain to turn her weak or harden her heart. I know there are many more "Charlenes" out there in the world, bowing their pain in worship each day, and I also know that these people are put into our lives to point the way...to show it IS possible to live a life of faith, hope, love and promise even in the midst of pain.
Let's face the truth: pain is an absolute certainty in this life here on earth. None of us will escape it. It all comes down to the "C" word again...choice. What we choose to do with our pain will define us and our lives for years to come. We all know someone who has been weakened by the pain in their lives and they retreat from really living. They try to make their lives "safe" so that pain won't be an issue...or so they believe. Others are hardened by the pain. NO ONE gets in too close. They close themselves off to sympathy, empathy and, at times, even love in the false belief that they are protecting themselves from pain. Whether you retreat or slam up walls...pain will seep in, over run your retreating footsteps or crash through walls. But there is a choice to do something different...
Surrendering our pain to God gives Him the open door to comfort, give strength and turn our pain into something valuable, something that someday we will look back and find worthy of our sweetest praise.
So what to choose? Carrot? Egg? or Coffee? For me the real miracle is that I might go in a carrot and even morph into a hard-boiled egg, but sometime during the process I make a choice and come out coffee:). I always knew there was something deeply spiritual about coffee!!!
Worship in the midst of pain???? Absolutely. Maybe tremulously like a soggy carrot at first, or haltingly, barely lifting a hand through the cracked surface of a protective facade, like a seemingly impregnable over-boiled egg, but ultimately we worship with a rich fragrance that fills the air near us and beckons those around to come near and share the comfort and the goodness that is our Lord.
Love to you, my dearest "coffee" loving friends!