I am Irish. Well, Irish enough. You’d never know it from looking at me. 6’4″ bald guy? Hardly leprechaun stock. But my mother, her mother, and her mother before that are/were all flaming Irish redheads. I’m at least 1/4 Irish as best as I can tell, and it’s what I claim. I love Irish and Celtic music – I even volunteer at Irish Fest each year to take in as much free Irish music as I can. I watch those O’Riada Academy Irish dancers every chance I can, and I sing along with guys of Celtic Thunder (all 3 CDs worth) at the top of my lungs. But there’s one little element of Irish culture I realized the other day I’m not so sure about. It’s known as the “Old Irish Blessing.” When I was in high school, we’d sing it at the final choir concert of the year, and the moms of the seniors would pass around the “cry towel” as it was such a beautiful sentiment. But part of it really bugs me.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Actually, once I get to the 3rd line I’m OK. Warm sunshine, soft rain… sounds pretty good. I definitely believe we should live in awe that the God of all creation holds each of His own, as it were, in the palm of His hand.
It’s those first 2 lines that I discovered recently I can’t genuinely wish for someone. I’ve been trying to run outside as much as I can as the weather has been warm. The terrain around our new Life Time Fitness location in Lenexa is quite hilly. With the club at the highest point in a couple miles, the trip “out” is mostly downhill, and the trip back – when I’m already starting to get fatigued – is conversely almost all uphill. But I wouldn’t want it to be flat roads the whole way. There is no challenge to that.
Of course nobody wishes for adversity. But looking back, we see God’s hand so clearly that we can honestly thank Him for it. The last thing I want to wish for someone is that their life would be so comfortable and easy that they wouldn’t need to rely on God to give them strength. I think of our upcoming mission trip to Omaha and the various misfortunes I’ve been witness to (or even the cause of) on past trips. We’ve had an H1N1 outbreak, witnessed the immediate aftermath of a near-fatal motorcycle crash, had the power go out on an 80-degree night where we couldn’t have the windows open due to mischievous neighbor kids who broke in anyway, and I personally have scraped the side of the rental van, and accidentally left behind two students at a work site, both on the same day. (They don’t let me drive on the mission trip anymore.) Not only is it the times when we have something go “wrong” when the greatest memories are forged, it’s also then that we must thank God things weren’t any worse, and trust Him to protect us from further peril.
So no, I won’t be praying for the road to rise up and become flat for you. The wind will blow as it will, just like the unpredictable Spirit of God. I will pray that last line about being in the palm of God’s hand, but it’s exactly in the storm and struggle that we need that comfort the most.
Come to think of it, Scripture does teach that a day will come when “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain” (Isaiah 40:4). It’s the next verse that tells us why that isn’t something to flippantly wish for just any time. “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” When that happens, it’s all over. Come Lord Jesus, but I’ll wait, struggle, and trust until then.