When we first saw Green Acres, one of our favorite trees was a huge, leaning majestic oak tree that stood guarding the large pond that is the most dominant land feature of our property. It was stately and majestic and had just the perfect level of interest due to its long branches and the tilt it had towards the back of the property.
The year after we moved here, on our anniversary, The Outdoorsman and I drove to a cedar mill shop and bought a large cedar swing to hang upon the lowest branch of the tree. For years, we sat in the swing and many of my favorite pictures were taken either from the swing or of the swing.
About a year ago, we were in the middle of a very difficult season of life that seemed to have no end. One situation would end only to have another difficult situation curtsy into our life as quickly as the last one had ushered itself out.
On the final day of 2020 (a year that will live in infamy for many of us), a huge storm passed through during the night that brought bright flashes of lightning and booming thunder and, upon looking out the window the next morning, the tree lay smashed to pieces on the ground in front of the rippling water. I quickly closed my eyes and wished it away, but there it was lying helplessly on its side with broken arms and no chance to right itself. I walked outside and inspected the scene and, to my amazement, the swing we had placed upon the tree had wondrously saved itself by swinging in front of the trunk as it crashed down on that fateful night. A sign that God was still watching out for us despite the sad situation.
The enormous tree has been laying on its side for about a year now, sad and broken, as The Outdoorsman has slowly whittled away at it. Once a stately friend of ours on the farm, it became a playground for goats, a curiosity for cows, and an eyesore to me due to the knowledge of its former glory. Some others probably relate to me when I say I actually mourned the loss of the tree because it was such a fixture on our land. It was tough for me to look toward the pond during those months and see it sadly laying on its side.
In the past couple of months, The Outdoorsman has slowly gotten a handle on the tree with the help of his parents and a log splitter and, now, we have huge piles of firewood that will last us for years. What once was a symbol of beauty and stateliness, has now become an extremely useful resource for our family.
Many of us are like that stately oak tree. We were once standing gloriously along the shores of a rippling lake, but fierce storms have broken us and, even, knocked us completely over. We lay there on our sides for a while looking at the horizon from a totally different perspective while trying to devise a new plan. Will we continue to lie there and rot away right where we were felled or will we find a new way to rise, in pieces, to be helpful for someone in need?
During various seasons of life, I have had to quickly assess what just happened to me while I was still on the ground, do some reconnaissance, and slowly stand to my feet again looking a lot different. Bearing broken branches and looking frayed from the fall. From a happily married, stay-at-home mom to a shocked, single mother in a matter of moments. From an excited, new mother-in-law to a bastion of emotional support for my son. From an empty nester to a place of refuge for my adult children. From a foster mother to a mere stepping stone in a long, difficult journey. None of those things were easy. None of those storms were expected.
How will you choose to react to the swift and sudden storm? Will you lay there, shocked and saddened, or will you rise up again stronger and more knowledgeable than before? Can you learn ways to help others who are, unfortunately, walking the difficult paths you have unwillingly walked upon?
Thank God, He has allowed me to use what I have learned to help others propel themselves forward during difficult journeys. I am forever grateful that my pain was not wasted by lying where I first landed in total shock. God helped me to stand up and continue life’s journey. I accomplished that only by actively praying for wisdom, reading self-help books, leaning on family and friends, and learning to trust Him. He loves us more than anyone ever will and He will lead us along life’s rocky, meandering paths if we will listen to Him and trust Him.
Just as the fallen tree will give us warmth in the form of firewood if we take the laborious steps to cut it, so He will allow our “falls” to warm our relationships if we take the laborious steps toward healing and health. There is no short cut. Healing will not happen on its own just as the branches will not split into firewood on their own after a tree falls. The “natural course of events” would be for the tree to rot right where it fell. If you allow yourself to stay right where you fell, it is likely that you will also slowly “rot” from the inside out and become bitter and unhealthy. In order to raise ourselves up, we must reach out to others, pray for direction, go to counseling, and follow God’s leading.
When a tree falls, there are two options. Isn’t a huge stack of firewood waiting to be ignited for warmth much more endearing to behold than a fallen, rotted out tree?
So it is with you.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT)