A new series at church today (entitled "Pain Management") reminded me of this post from a few years back. I thought it was apropos - so, I've decided to reprint it. The series at church is aligned to this story and oddly it recounts the pain some of the members at church have suffered. We hate and often avoid pain, but oddly it sometimes serves an important purpose.
Last Sunday my pastor told an interesting story about a Nebraskan farmer. His request for Divine intervention for the benefit of his corn field differed from most farmers who customarily would say “pray for rain.” However, he would ask his family and friends to pray for drought before the harvest.
His young son reached an age where he understood farming well enough to be confused by his father’s words. “Why should we pray for drought, Dad? Doesn’t water make the corn grow?” he asked.
The seasoned farmer sat his son down and explained. If it rains too much and too soon, then the crops become satisfied and the roots remain shallow. Yes, the corn will grow tall, but they are not well secured to the ground. When the strong summer winds come prior to the harvest, the stalks will be easily torn from the earth and swept away, destroyed. But when there is little water, the roots naturally dig deep, seeking the life-giving water below the surface. When those storms come, the drought-suffered crops survive the blast because they cannot be ripped away so easily.
We are so much like those stalks of corn. It is in our hardships that we grow deep. We think we want all the good and satisfying things to keep us happy, but in truth these things only keep us shallow. But moreover, especially in our unstinted American lives, there is a cultural belief of entitlement and that by following the right path and connections someday we will arrive.
I am bewilderingly blessed. I have riches both material and fraternal. More than the birds of the fields, my basic needs are not even questioned, but even more – many simple desires are obtainable on a whim. My life is more comfortable than I deserve!
But yet, when some mishap of life occurs, I tailspin out of control as I am staggered that any inconvenience could have crept into my secure existence, and I rebuke any involved who should have prevented it. Is that accurate and honest enough? Oh, the childlike tantrums I catch myself throw.
The truth is – I don’t know suffering. Because of that, I am spoiled, weak and shallow. My roots are not deep enough to endure the storms. When the winds come, even the gentle breezes of difficulty, I am put under a strain.
However, today I caught a glimpse of a mighty storm in someone else’ life. Seven weeks ago, the Organizations Director of our church, his wife and his two children were struck by an eighteen-wheeler. Amazingly the children came out with no life-threatening injuries, but he was in a coma for a week and his wife in one for two weeks.
Today, as part of the Easter service, they made a triumphant public return. Still facing several more needed surgeries and who knows how much expense and pain, they expressed gratitude for the gift that God had given them in this experience. And the meaning of this gift wasn’t “just being alive.” There was a truly genuine appreciativeness for being traumatized by the wreck.
I admit I cannot fathom how he could be happy to be hurt, but he was. He also said he won’t go seeking it again – so it’s not that kind of happy. However, there were many blessings that had been revealed to him during this crisis and much that he had learned. He offered to explain more when he had healed better but did reveal one illustration.
He said that few people ever get to understand impact and significance their life has had on other people. In the routineness of life, we rarely know whether the things we do really make a difference and whether other people care about our efforts or even about us. So much is scripted civility that is hard to tell.
Yet this experience was much like attending his own funeral to see who took the time to show up. However, this “funeral” lasted seven weeks thus far. Showing up wasn’t an act of ceremony, and the volume of people who came to the family’s aid because of established relationships and because of past compassions extended from his family made him that his purpose here on this earth had not been wasted. That knowledge, that assurance – it is a gift few ever receive in this life.
Now, I have no desire to drive my vehicle into semi-truck to gain this illumination myself. Nor do I believe one should create self-afflictions to gain the character. Those crises will occur enough on their own; God told His children that already (John 16:33).
However, what I have taken from all of this is that the difficulties in my life have value. If I will stop complaining about them, if I will become peaceful in God’s providence and if I will be open to learn and listen rather than just endure or escape, then I can trust I will come through the storm and my roots will have grown a little deeper.
I will pray for drought.