Jake and I were sitting on a bench in a forest when we heard a loud cracking.
We’d been cycling some miles alongside the New River in Virginia, on a railroad track-turned-trail.
About 100 yards away, a tree crashed down, completely blocking our return.
It reminded me of a time in Ethiopia when a fallen tree barricaded the road. Yesterday I ‘happened’ to find the journal entry that tells that story.
Here are some edited excerpts:
6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 [ 2007]
We had our first test in Amharic. It was surprisingly easy. Class finished early so we drove up to the Menagesha Forest [billed as the oldest park in Africa] to hike up the tallest mountain. It was awesome but challenging – perhaps a ‘test’ from God that was surprisingly hard (in contrast to the easy language test.)
It wasn’t the steep, higher altitude walking that made it hard. It was the schoolboys. The crowd of noisy boys who insisted on walking with us, telling us which way to go, and demanding pens and bread. It was so annoying.
How impatient I was with them. I fussed at them [in Amharic and English}, I yelled at them in Spanish, we even gently tossed rocks at them but they just laughed. Nothing made those boys leave us alone. In the end we gave up and turned back. We could have made it to the top if only we’d been left alone.
Then we got lost and had to backtrack to find our car, and then on the drive down the mountain, the road was blocked by a fallen tree. Jake and a rope and the Landcruiser pulled it aside. What a day!
Back to Virginia.
It was a large oak tree, its thick trunk and many branches and leaves completely covered the trail.
No way could we pull it. Nor could we slip under it or climb over it.
I looked down toward the river, figuring we’d have to somehow get ourselves—and our bikes!—down that bank, along the sand shore, and back up to the trail.
Meanwhile Jake was breaking branches and tunneling a way for us to go through the tree.
It feels like a big tree has dropped across the road of life these days.
God is not pulling it away.
1 Peter 4:1, 2 (The Message) says: “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.”
Can I learn to think like Jesus?
Can suffering wean me from my sinful habit of expecting my own way? I get cranky when I don’t get my way, especially when my way is good.
Wouldn’t it be great to be free of that?
And of other sinful habits, like Worry. Complaining. Criticizing. People-pleasing. (I am so tired of that one!)
Like those schoolboys, these sins annoy me. They distract me. They steal my peace.
How odd is God’s method of weaning.
He uses suffering to spotlight sin in my life — so He can free me and change me and help me pursue what He wants.
Like Jake breaking branches in that oak tree, Jesus is clearing a way for me through this big tree.
When we do get through all this and come out on the other side, I hope I am different.