What’s in a bow?

We’ve lived in Asia for 19 years and bowing is a natural way of life. But in this area there is still more for me to learn. There’s the bride and groom, on their knees before their parents, who lower their foreheads to the floor. Children, dressed in traditional clothes, bow deeply before their elders on holidays with the hopes of receiving a small gift in return. Then, there is the usual, all-occasion bow which is little more than a deep nod of the head.

When Alia was three, she went to a Korean preschool. One of the things they taught her was how to greet people properly (인사하다). It was drilled into her at home and at school. When we met someone, we’d remind her by saying, “in-sah…” She would immediately bow her head and say hello. It was similar to when I was a little girl. I can still hear the voice of my parents in my head saying “Yes Ma’am” or “Yes Sir” reminding me to respond correctly to adults in my life. People in this part of the world grow up learning how to show respect by bowing.

Not long ago, while I was at the airport I saw the most beautiful bow, yet. I was standing behind the boundary just at the arrival door. Those waiting were standing on tiptoe and squeezing past others just to get a glimpse of the people pouring out the door. I saw faces light up and I knew they had found who they were looking for.

A very small grandmother stood next to me peering eagerly through the doors. Then I saw it. A man in his early twenties, stood at the open door. He said “Grandmother!”, dropped his bags where he stood, and fell to the floor in a deep bow, on his knees, head to the floor (remember this is a public floor in Yanji-translation: it’s not so clean). The old woman next to me gasped and cried out. She slipped under the barrier tape. Her grandson was still on the floor when she reached him. She took him by the hand, helped him up, and they embraced. It was a beautiful moment.

As I’ve mulled this scene over (and over) in my mind, I can’t help but connect it with another moment of waiting. I think of my Heavenly Father who waits so eagerly for me. Yes, one day we will bow before Him and I long for that day, but what about now? How often do I take for granted His presence in my life? How often do I go through the motions, not recognizing His hand at work in me?

Do I long for my Maker now? Why is it easy for me to imagine one day bowing before Almighty God physically, but hard for me to fall down before Him now? Is it pride that holds me back? Is it a submission issue? Am I holding back, unwilling to completely surrender?

A grandson humbly, lovingly on his knees expressing excitement and awe at being in the presence of his grandmother is a picture that I want to keep in my mind. It’s a picture of what I long for in my relationship with my Father. I want to experience the excitement of a life lived out in His presence. I want to walk humbly with my God.

Father, thank you for the beautiful reminder of the joy that comes from bowing before You.



This entry was posted in A Thoughtful Life, China life. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What’s in a bow?

  1. Stephanie says:

    Regina, I loved this post and your recollection of the grandson bowing, forehead to floor, to his grandmother. It gave me goose bumps and reminded me of something we do in our church. Our Father does wait eagerly for us. When you said, “one day we will bow before Him and I long for that day, but what about now?” I thought of several occasions where we do bow in my church before Christ today. May His kingdom be with us now on earth as it is in heaven.

    The Elevation of the Cross is celebrated in September each year. http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/doctrine/sources-of-christian-doctrine/elevation-of-the-cross
    The first time I saw it my eyes filled with tears as I watched people around me go to their knees and then put their foreheads on the ground proclaiming that they belonged to a kingdom, not of this world.
    During Lent there is a prayer where we bow in the same way.
    And every Sunday when the gifts of bread and wine are lifted up in the Eucharist we bow before Christ who is alive and in our midst.

    It is a lovely thing to bow before our Lord in our hearts, minds, and with our body.
    Thank you for your reflections on this beautiful practice.
    The well-read redhead 🙂



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s