There’s a huge silver maple in our backyard. It really is an impressive specimen – it’s about 10 ft. around and it has to be 50 – 60 ft. tall. It’s got big gnarly roots that stick so far out of the ground that my wife has used some of them to form retaining walls for a flower bed. Unfortunately, there are a couple problems with that tree: first, it has a big hollowed-out rotten spot at its base, indicating disease at its core; and second, the tree is only about 15 ft. from the back of the house.
That tree is so big that it overhangs about half the house. If you have any experience with silver maples, you know that they have a tendency to lose their limbs in heavy wind. Ever since we moved here, I’ve had my eye on that tree, thinking that the whole tree or some large part of it could easily blow over onto the house in a storm. Sure enough, night before last we had a thunderstorm. I was awakened about 3:30 a.m. by a loud thud.
I raised my head off the pillow enough to look out and see the lightning flash, and I could hear the wind and rain, so in my groggy state of mind I passed off the noise that woke me as just thunder. But as I laid there trying to go back to sleep, the idea that the sound had been thunder just didn’t set right – I knew the sound was different than thunder, and I suspected something else must have caused it. But I couldn’t muster enough concern to get up and check it out, and I was soon back to sleep.
First thing next morning, my 9-year-old son noticed a huge limb lying right in front of our front door. He came running to tell me about it and, being the bright boy that he is, mentioned the fact that it was a maple limb, but we didn’t have any maples in the front yard. Hmmm…sure enough, that limb had come off the silver maple in back of the house, and it had come from so high up on the tree that it had hit the roof on the front side of the house and slid down to land by the front door. And surely, this was the explanation for the thud that had awakened me at 3:30.
Oh yeah – that tree! That tree that I had been meaning to do something about for years now… that tree that has always had the potential to come crashing down on the house in any strong wind… that tree that was still in a position to do extreme damage to the house – or to any of us – at just about any time. Praise God, there was no damage to the roof and none of us were hurt. But the question remains – why hadn’t I done anything about that tree?
Trying to answer that question over the last couple days has taught me some things about myself. I do realize that I have a touch of the procrastinator in me, and I am not proud of that. I am working on it, truly. There can be lots of causes of procrastination, and I thought I had them all pretty well figured out – putting things off because the timing just isn’t right, or the circumstances aren’t quite perfect, or the thing costs too much (money or time), or trying to plan for every possible eventuality, or maybe I am just a little lazy sometimes. But the reason I hadn’t yet done anything about the tree was none of the above. The real reason I hadn’t cut that tree down was … I couldn’t do it by myself. That’s right (this was an epiphany for me) – sometimes I’d rather see something put off indefinitely than to have to ask for (or hire) help. It will take a bucket truck, and some big saws, and ropes, and expertise that I don’t have to bring that tree down safely.
Now this procrastination thing based on a reluctance to ask for help got me thinking deeper. What else that needs doing in my life am I putting off because I can’t do it myself? Even if the thing I am putting off presents a clear danger? The thing that came to mind this morning was sin – or maybe a better way to put it is a reluctance to submit to what God is showing us. Think it over and ask yourself – how successful have you ever been at getting rid of a particular sin in your life on your own? True, we can get motivated and stop doing (or start doing) that thing we’ve been convicted about, and in our own strength we might bring about change – for awhile. But without God’s help to eradicate our rebellious or reluctant attitude, the change doesn’t last.
How many times has this happened to you: you hear a good sermon, or read a convicting book on Christian living, or read a familiar passage of scripture and see it with new eyes – and you are immediately convicted of change that needs to happen in your life? So you shake hands with the pastor on your way out the door and say “Good sermon – I really needed to hear that” – and by Monday afternoon the message, as well as the conviction it brought, has been forgotten. Or you can’t quite remember what that scripture passage said two days later. Or you can’t remember the name of that song you heard on the radio the other day that so convicted you that you were moved to tears while driving down the road.
Why do we do this? Why, when faced with conviction straight from the Holy Spirit that something in you has got to change, do we either try to do it all ourselves, or just let it slide until it fades into the background of our awareness? We don’t see lasting change because we don’t ask for help from the only One who can do the work. We ought to fall on our knees and take our need for healing to our Father and ask Him for the help we need to be whole and complete and sin-free, as He intends us to be.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
– I Thessalonians 5:23-24
As for me, I’m calling the bucket-truck guy Monday.