He lurched through the doors of the tent revival like a man whose skeleton had been folded in half.
The Haitian man can’t stand upright, so he hobbles while bent over at the waist. Under his arm that day, he carried two old pieces of cardboard. And that was nearly all he had — two dirty pieces of cardboard with the words “Feed My Starving Children.”
The music had lured the lame and the deaf and the broken people of shaken Haiti under a tent of praise. They’d lost what little they had, yet they lifted voices and hands in worship. The bent old man stopped near the back, dropped his dirty cardboard mat to the floor and lay on it while he praised.
My friend, Ruth — an Iowan on mission to Haiti — watched it all. Ruth was in the tent when the man stumbled in. And now that Ruth is back in Iowa, she told me the story of this old man, who teaches us what it means to worship, even in the midst of pain.
“Jennifer,” she said, tears welling in her eyes, “that man just laid right down on that mat, and the music was going, and he curled up on that cardboard, and raised his hand up to Jesus.”
“That man had nothing — nothing but old pieces of cardboard,” Ruth told me. “But he was praising God with everything within him.”
And I think how little my worship, how small my praise.
I want for nothing, yet I fail to praise Him as I should for the abundance that is my life.
Sometimes, the Spirit will move inside this soul, prompting my own spirit to raise a hand in praise, but the flesh keeps these hands at my sides. Why? Why do I resist Christ in me?
I don’t know what it is to worship — not really. Not compared to the man on the cardboard mat.
I wonder: Will the rocks break out in praise while I stand here so hushed?
And I think about the Pharisees, who told Jesus on Palm Sunday: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
Jesus answered: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
On Sunday morning, I raised a palm branch in the air — waving adoration — as we led 14 children around the sanctuary of little country church. I lifted high the branch, and this week, I lift high my heart.
I think of the man on the cardboard mat.
Even more, I think of the God-Man on the cross.
How can I keep silent? How can I keep from singing?
All creation sings Your praise, Father. And I shall join the chorus.
Photo: Palm branches from our Sunday service. We will let these branches dry and curl on the edges. And on Thursday, the branches will decorate the table of our Messianic Passover table. The dying branches will remind us that only days earlier, we were shouting “Hosanna” and waving palms. Yet the same voices will shout “Crucify Him” while waving fists.
Dear friends, what does real worship look like to you as we journey from the palms to the cross? Where have you seen or experienced the sort of worship that keeps the rocks silent?
UPDATE (Tuesday night): Ruth just sent me this photo of her group praying over the man on his cardboard mat.