TITLE: Leaning Spruce Lesson (27 March 2017)
By Jane Hoppe
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I hear an elephant trumpet. A Cape buffalo bellows and grunts. A stampeding herd of rhinos thunders across a savannah. All these, plus wailing and whistling from my suburban living room. Am I reading Out of Africa this afternoon? No. I am listening to unrelenting 30 mph winds with frequent 50 mph gusts. And this is Day Three of this gale. Bam! Sounds like shutters banging against the house—except this house has no shutters. Investigating the noise, I find a wooden rocking chair thumping back and forth on the porch. By now, roof shingles have probably blown off and landed only God knows where.
But my biggest worry is out the kitchen window. A blue spruce leans at a 30-degree angle, its stakes pulling further out of the ground with each fresh gust. Yellow ropes, once taut, sag and tremble in the wind. Considering how limp the ropes are, I am surprised the stakes even still touch the ground. They won’t for long, I am pretty sure. And then the blue spruce will easily blow over.
I call my husband, who is out of town, and have to leave a voicemail. My voice quavers. Tears spring to my eyes. I feel so helpless. I pray for the Jesus whose mere command stills waves and wind to still these winds. Then I pray that God would somehow keep the spruce’s roots in the ground. I think if I could find help, I should, so I go on our subdivision’s homeowner listserv and ask for men with strong backs and a mallet to come pound the stakes back in. Then I run to the kitchen window to see if any knights in shining armor have arrived. Silly me. Even a next-door neighbor could not possibly have read my plea, donned a jacket, grabbed a mallet, and gotten here in the few seconds it took me to plaster my hopeful face against the kitchen window. I search for my husband’s mallet, cannot find it, so go outside with a garden shovel. I pound at the stakes until I realize the shovel’s reverberations have caused painful swelling in my hand. Ouch! Defeated and once again helpless, I go back inside.
I keep close watch through the kitchen window in case someone comes. Oh—what if they drive up? I really should watch out the front street-view window, too. I know from previous requests on the listserv that neighbors here have lots of tools and expertise and desire to help, and I picture the scene when rescuers arrive. Ooh, what if the gal with the Hummer comes to tow the tree into an upright position again? Wouldn’t that be great? I had other things I needed to do today, but now I can’t do them because I have this vigil to keep, because I will of course want to run outside to help when neighbors do come. And besides icing my swollen hand, there’s not much I can do while checking windows on two sides of the house. Plus, I need to keep an eye on that poor tree. In case I miss the sight, I wonder what sound the spruce will make when it falls.
Then it hits me. No, not the spruce. The spiritual application. This is exactly what I do when I have asked God for help with a relationship problem or life decision or someone’s salvation. I hover, I check every minute, I wring my hands, I think up all sorts of good ways He could answer my prayer, I feel sorry for myself, I worry that He’s not coming with help quickly enough so I try to do it myself. And since I am busy doing all that, I am not doing what God has called me to do. In many cases, I’m sure I have not even heard His Spirit’s still, small voice whisper what He wants me to do. In other cases, I know what to do, but I make excuses because I am too busy doing His job incompetently.
Oh, Lord, please forgive my unbelief, and my impatience with you that is actually demanding. Who am I to demand anything of you? I beg your forgiveness for my presumptuous disobedience and what it has cost you. Please, Holy Spirit, show me my limits and your desires for my time. And please help me to wait expectantly after acknowledging my helplessness before you. I am not strong enough to right a leaning spruce tree or even to pound stakes into the ground. Certainly changing complex circumstances and other people’s minds is beyond my abilities as well. But nothing is too difficult for you!
Now the sun has sunk below the horizon. No neighbors have sped over with mallets. Winds still howl, and the spruce lists lower than before. But I am at peace. I did what I could, and I prayed for God to take charge of orchestrating what only He can. And I wrote down this lesson from the Lord, which is what He placed on my heart to do this afternoon.
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