You know that you are getting old when you bend over and think to yourself, “Is there anything else I need to do while I’m down here?” Oswald Avery said about life: “When you fall, be sure to pick something up while you’re down there.” It would be a pity to fall down and not pick up something worthwhile during the experience.
The testimony of many across the years has been that they have picked up some of the most valuable things in life while they were down. Edmund McIlhenny operated a sugar plantation and a saltworks on Avery Island, Louisiana, before the Civil War. When Union troops invaded the area in 1863, McIlhenny fled. He returned two years later to find his sugar cane fields and saltworks destroyed. The only things left were some Mexican peppers that had re-seeded themselves in the yard. McIlhenny began to experiment with the ground peppers to make a sauce, which would add some taste to his dull diet. In doing so, he invented what we know today as Tabasco sauce. More than 150 years later the McIlhenny Company still produces Tabasco sauce. When Edmund McIlhenny found himself knocked to the ground, he picked up something valuable that has outlasted his life.
Of course, there are more valuable things than Tabasco sauce that can be picked up while you are down. Some people pick up sensitivity and compassion while they are down. As long as they are standing, they are self-sufficient and unfeeling toward those who are knocked down.
Stephen Shoemaker said, “Ministry begins in suffering. The grace of God is poured from broken heart to broken heart. Unbroken hearts are quite unusable for ministry; they are like shiny pottery vessels with no openings either to receive or to give the healing balms of God.”
Paul said, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Of course, Paul himself was one who picked up the most while he was down. While struggling with his thorn in the flesh, he discovered that God’s grace really is sufficient for us. Paul said it is in our weakness that we discover what genuine strength is (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
It is amazing what can happen to us in such moments. In her book, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard tells of the Napo River. She said that it is not an “out-of-the-way” place. Instead it is “in-the-way” of many important things. Have your ever noticed that some places that you thought were “out-of-the-way” turned out to be “in-the-way”–in the way of beauty, joy, and insight. And, as unlikely as it seems, falling down may put you in the way of God.
LYNN JONES is a retired pastor, supply preacher and author who lives in Oxford. He can be reached at email@example.com.