My high school art teacher, Al Markworth, was very instrumental in my early spiritual formation. If not for him, I might not even be in ministry today. At the very least, I’m sure my life would have been radically different if not for his influence.
I remember once, when I was still in high school, Al burned his hand quite badly. I never saw the burns—his entire hand was bandaged—but he described it in vivid detail as only an artist could. After the description I was glad I couldn’t see it.
Have you ever had a serious burn? Not just a little red mark, but a serious flesh-searing, skin-consuming burn? It is not only painful when it happens, but for several days afterward also. Each time the bandage is changed, it can cause a ripping and more agony. It’s not at all an enjoyable process.
Although Al was in obvious pain, I still remember him thanking God that it happened. He said that his hand hurting helped him to remember that he was not going to have to endure eternal fire, just a minor inconvenience here. He was—as Psalm 34 says— boasting in the Lord, even while in the midst of pain.
My young mind thought, A minor inconvenience?! I would certainly not want to endure such an inconvenience.
It was a powerful lesson for me, one that I still remember forty years later. It caused me to wonder how I would react in such a scenario. Al’s willingness to glorify the Lord during a very trying time caused my heart to soften.