Friday, October 29, 2010

Bent But Not Broken

The sumptuous sunrise was sneaking up on the crack of dawn. Morning doves and sparrows were rehearsing a score fit for a rising production. The velvet curtain haze, heavy from the sultry day before, slowly rolled back to reveal a mighty scene surrounded by Arcadia azure clouds and pastel puffs of pink. Early shadows cast an amber glow on waves of grain, and prism dew drops, strung along the way, sparkled tiny rainbows in narrow aisles. Perfect peace was center stage and the only intrusion was that of an occasional cricket catching the early show, or the scurry of a furry creature running late for a very important date. 

As I strolled along, heads propped up on pillars of gold invited my touch, and I moved my hand across the tops of gilded wheat. Its spiked hair and knotty kernels tickled my palms. Intermittently, a bent reed bowed to me, and  I resisted the urge to straighten it, knowing that my feeble attempt to correct it would break the already bruised fiber.  Even my most tender touch to coax it to an upright state would destroy what was designed to thrive in this predisposed prominence. 

These stalks pushed through the stubborn sod and burst into life just as the others. Their substance, as valuable as those that surrounded them. Their worth, no more, or less significant than any of the hundreds standing beside them saluting the sun. The only difference was their stature.

Some of us are kindred to these bruised reeds. Designed to thrive in a bent but not broken ability, we are blown over by the wind of circumstance, and pounded to live as an incurvate. Like clay, we are centered and turned taller until tipped by any number of influential iniquities. It might be the design of a debilitating disease, disability or depression; the crease of a sacred trust violated, or the shape of physical or sexual abuse. We might be stamped by the loss of a child or molded to mothering one with a disability. It could be that we are folded by a formidable financial crisis, or mottled by a multiple of these miseries.

But the fact remains, we are bruised reeds thriving in the fertile soil of Ecclesiastical truth, "The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant, or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come. As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."  (Eccl. 9:11-12) 

Had the lot been cast differently, we might have been any other head on a pillar, but it was not meant to be. If we feel degraded and discouraged in what was created to live in bruised ability, we might attempt to force ourselves to stand straighter only to find it impossible to do so. The striving for self correction does nothing more than force us to horrendous habits and helplessness. Our feeble fix only finds abuse, our self acclaimed ability only bias, and there is no lack of others who stand over us in pity or judgment. In our bowed state we must also endure pietistic platitudes. Those vile verdicts of the religiously righteous that make judgments upon us and tell us we can be healed if we have more faith, more prayer, more holiness, more...more...more....The flippant fingers that try to feebly force us into the upright position by spiritualizing pain with the sublimity of suffering, positive proclivity, and the too blessed to be messed, stressed, or pressed mentality.

The reality is this. It is precisely our bowed state that gives us strength in weakness, and honor in humility. The apostle Paul knew it as a thorn in the flesh. Agonizing affliction and confounding constraints are of the highest value. Suffering that is allowed the presence of God becomes something more, something beautiful. God takes our thorns, weaves the heart of the gospel into them and places them upon our head as a crown. Yet not one pierces without His knowledge. Those drops of bereavement from the sharpest thorns produce the most delicate roses whose petals sweeten the world with compassion, tenderness, and love. 

That we can stand tall in humility, yet bow to kiss that Hand that hurts; that we can find, in the midst of suffering, a love for our fellow man that is greater than our own; that we can commune with the Christ of the cross and carry his gospel in the very heart of our pain is the liberty of the bruised reed, and the healing of the brokenhearted.

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