New Life

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly." Richard Bach

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blessings in disguise

Can being broken be a blessing? 
photo by

I initially found this story of the Lost Horse in my new favorite book, Sabbath.  He entitles it as, The Story of the Taoist Farmer.  I am finding , however, that it is an ancient tale known throughout the world.

In Japan,

Ningen banji saiou ga uma means,  'Inscrutable are the ways of Heaven. An evil may sometimes turn out a blessing in disguise.' 

It's literal meaning is: 'All human affairs are like Saiou's horse.' 
It comes from this old Chinese folktale:
photo by Neecie Herndon

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?" Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a disaster?" Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, "What makes you so sure this isn't a blessing?"

A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

(Huai Han, Tzu, early Han 2nd Dynasty B.C.)

I am finding that this is so true in our own lives.

On a small scale.....Not being able to do something I wanted to do opened up an opportunity for something else even better.

On a larger scale.....The tree that fell on our home provided us with a new heat pump at little cost.  

On a huge scale.....My husband's diagnosis has brought us all closer to God.

I would never before have been grateful for these things.  And although hindsight is always 20/20, I am pondering about making quick judgments on 'bad' things that happen or trials I find myself in when I base it only on what I can immediately see, reason, or perceive.

As I write, my aunt faces discouragement after four botched hip surgeries for a hip replacement that was supposed to improve the quality of her life.   She faces not being able to walk without aids, or do what she used to be able to do, constant pain, and another surgery.   One last chance.  Where is the blessing?
As I hold her while she sobs, I wonder.  And I think about the son who fell and broke his hip.

Our church offered a class on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis this fall.

 "The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".  In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides a series of lessons in the importance of taking a deliberate role in living out Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, as seen from devils' viewpoints."  (Wikipedia)

The instructor introduced The Law of Undulation which states that humans have spiritual peaks and valleys that we go though during our lives.

 un·du·la·tion  n.
1. A regular rising and falling or movement to alternating sides; movement in waves.

Screwtape mentions it in Letter 8 when telling his nephew Wormwood that 'the patient' may not be falling away from his faith but that it may be the natural part of the life of faith.....
Thus the law of undulation.

The life of faith?  Hmmmm.....

Screwtape writes about God, ("our Enemy" is referring to God; remember this is a demon talking)
"Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the trough even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else…It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayer offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best…Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round on a universe from which every trace of Him has vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."
C.S. Lewis "The Screwtape Letters"

The trick is to remember the peaks when you are in the valleys.  And to know that the valleys will soon give way to the peaks.  And to trust.

Just being aware of this is so huge.....  So you don't get stuck.

My girls and I are almost finished memorizing The Beatitudes together.
There is nothing quite so breathtaking as hearing your 4 year old recite scripture that is being imprinted upon her heart.

Matthew 5:2-12
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Wayne Muller  in Sabbath,
"He said blessed are.  Not "they will one day be blessed, "  but they are blessed right now.  The poor are blessed, even in their poverty.  Those who mourn are blessed, even in their grief.  The meek, the merciful, even those who are persecuted--blessed, blessed, blessed.  Not later.  Not when their trials are over.  Not when they are fixed.  Right here, right now.  There is a blessing for you here, now, in this very moment."

I am finding that I am considering blessings and trials differently now....
And my aunt's hip?  I can't wait to see how God plans to bless her through this. 
I think the key lies in the looking, waiting, and expecting.

James 1:2-4

 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 34 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

My prayer for you...

Numbers 6:24-26
"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." 

Continuing Simple Praises.....
#325- Finding the story of the Lost Horse
#326- Learning about the Law of Undulation
#327- C.S. Lewis
#328- Being able to hold Sandy on Thanksgiving
#329- being broken
#330- the life of faith


Ann Kroeker said...

I love that old story where the man questions whether something might be a blessing or a disaster--I've heard a variation on it somewhere else, and even quoted it many times. Though it is not a Christian story, I think it does illustrate our limited view of circumstances, and how what seems so terrible can be, in fact, good.

How wonderful that your family is memorizing the Beatitudes, where Jesus points out that what looks bad--poverty, mourning, persecution--is turned upside down...that what looks like a disaster is a blessing.

So glad you visited my blog today!

Ann Kroeker, Content Editor

Kamilla said...

Thanks Christina! Your post is an inspiration, down to the instrumental playing in the background! Reading your Blog post today was like a mini get away from the busyness of the day :)

~Karen said...

"The trick is to remember the peaks when you are in the valleys. And to know that the valleys will soon give way to the peaks. And to trust."


Christina Parker Brown said...

Thank you! I think being aware is so huge. Wish I would have read that story a few years back :) God Bless you Ann, Kamilla, and Karen! Thanks for reading.

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