I stumbled upon Kevin’s blog quite by accident and have come to enjoy his Christ-centered posts. After reading one article in particular, I asked him to be a guest columnist on Reflections. What he wrote about marriage greatly impacted our readers. (I expanded on his point, discussing the how, the following week.) This devotion reminded me of an experience my husband and I went through about five years back. Finding ourselves in a place of unemployment, all of our belongings packed into storage, praying our newly built home would sell before we landed in debt, God asked me, “Do you still love Me? Will you praise Me even now?” At this time, Casting Crowns launched their song, “I Will Praise You in the Storm” and I clung to those words daily with determination. They became my mantra for a time and in those months of uncertainty, I understood what is meant by “a sacrifice of praise.” Sometimes our praise comes from a joyful heart. Other times, it is a sacrifice, a choice, an understanding that God is worthy of our praise regardless of our circumstances.
This article first appeared on Wake Up My Faith on Septermber 9, 2010.
* * *
Weed Eating Revelations #101
God gave me the privilege of working beneath the blue sky this past weekend, on a farm belonging to friends. I handled a few of their chores and they handled a few of my bills. I spent most of the day behind a sizeable weed trimmer, working along the perimeter of their property. There was a strip of rough terrain near the front entrance that presented a problem. It meets the road and then slopes back about 45 degrees, so you can’t mow it. It has no grass, only dollar weeds hovering just above the ground. But those weeds were treacherously disguising the jagged pea sized rocks underneath.
Now I’m used to suburban style weed-eating where shorts are a must, so that’s what I wore this weekend. When my friend put this section of his land on the to-do list, I sincerely thought about leaving. There’s something about launching rocks at myself that makes me reluctant. I can pay my electric bill some other way, I thought. Sure enough, 30 seconds into a 30 minute job and my shins were getting blasted. I must’ve tilted that trimmer at least 15 different angles to stop it, but nothing, just rocks. This went on for 10 minutes until blood was actually running down my leg (a few trickles) – no exaggeration. The pain was intense!
I gave it few more minutes and finally hoisted up that trimmer. “That’s it! I‘m not doing this! Hard work is one thing, but this is torture!” I reached for the kill switch to turn the motor off, but at that very moment my eyes were drawn to the trimmer head. Something was missing. I stopped its rotation and noticed that every inch of string was gone. That didn’t take long – I guess it was all those stones? The Lord reminded me of my commitment- crud! So I replaced the string, restarted the trimmer and forged ahead. I just couldn’t quit, but the remaining work seemed insurmountable. The pain was killing me. My legs continued to feel like they were being sprayed with buck shot. All I could do now was pray in frustration. “Lord why are you doing this to me? Why do want me to be in pain?” I continued trimming but got madder and madder at God for making me do this, just to pay a bill. No answer!
I finally got so tired of it I said to Him, “you know what?! I don’t care what you do to me! I WILL complete this work! I don’t care how much it hurts, I‘m going to be HUMBLE and finish, even if my legs fall off!” About 3 seconds after that, a large rock nailed me right in the fore head. The sting was intense; I even felt a little dizzy. Everything in me was screaming “Stop! This is ridiculous!” I didn’t speak to God after that, but just kept working in anger, thinking my sacrifice would be seen as humility. I forgot about my iPod until it fell from my shirt pocket- must’ve been all the dancing around. I hope nobody saw that. Anyway, I’d left it on pause earlier, and shoved it in my pocket. It was a nice surprise. I pressed play with no discernment of what song was on. Anything would be a nice distraction from the beating my shins were taking. I even began to sing without paying a lick of attention. But after a moment of it, the lyrics were inescapable. I realized then that God was speaking to me through that song – answering my complaint.
“And though my heart is torn I will praise you in this storm” (Casting Crowns)
Surely He was telling me to praise Him, right then, in this storm! But He was talking about more than the shower of rocks hitting my legs and face. Honestly, I’ve been angry for months over our situation, maybe longer, and He knew it. As the song played out, I was having overwhelming thoughts of Jesus. I could see Him being mocked, beaten and spat upon, while remaining quiet. My heart softened up and I could feel tears approaching. But they were for His pain instead of my own. God impressed upon me in waves that JESUS IS humility. And He was never angry about how He was treated, only about how people treated each other. I realized what God was saying. Real humility was the quiet resolve in the midst of unfairness, and it is never angry. It is the giant that only looks small to small people. My heart sank and I was ashamed. But at least I had clarity. If humility was a town or a destination, at least now I knew which direction to start walking. At least now I had a map.
With that revelation I pressed on –just kept going! The same cuts were being hit again and again, making a red swollen mess out of my legs. But in the end my frustration was absorbed by God’s grace. The “why me?” no longer mattered, only the resolve to honor Him in the midst of it. 20 minutes later that rough section of terrain was done. I finished it with torn up legs and a mended heart. “Thank you Lord for this work to help me pay my bills!” and then I thought to myself, “next time…I’M WEARING JEANS!”
* * *
More about Kevin, in his own words: As a student of God’s word, photographer and writer, my chief aim is to help followers of Christ apprehend a real and passionate faith through the study of His word, by simple illustration, and regular encouragement. And by this faith they might catch a vision of who God shaped them to become. This blog is an account of my own journey toward that real and passionate faith, starting at ground zero. I hope it will offer some encouragement to any who’ve set their mind on seeking God’s face, whatever the cost.
Before I close, I ask you, “How will you praise God today?” Will it be the result of a joy-filled heart, reflecting on blessings He has granted, or will it be a determined sacrifice, knowing that He is worthy, regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in? Ever wonder where God is when you are in the storm?
And remember, if you love, love, love today’s devo, tweet it, fb share it, “like” it or leave a comment.
That was an awesome post. And I could practically feel those rocks on my own shins. My nurse-self was thinking, “Get some long pants on!” (That’s also the Mom in me). But thank you for sharing from your heart, Kevin. Sometimes praising God is a determined act of the will in the midst of our personal terrors. But you are right—He is always there, ready to meet us and bring comfort, despite the pain.
This is a wonderful message to read with my first cup of coffee…makes me want to write…
Thank you so much, Jennifer, for having Kevin as your guest poster. And Kevin, thank you for this wonderful illustration of praising in the storm. This is one of my soapboxes! I’ve learned, even through gritted teeth, to give God a sacrifice of praise in all things. Loved this, Kevin. Blessings to you both!