Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wreckage on the Rooftop

Usually I go to the local state park to encounter the woods, but this week the woods came to a literal and unexpected way.

A storm blew up out of nowhere, generated I suppose by the high heat and humidity we'd been experiencing; summer weather that I'd welcomed after an unusually cool June. The sky darkened and the rumbling thunder announced its rapid approach. Soon it was upon us, the earlier quiet pierced with ear-splitting BOOMS as lightning strikes hit a little too close to home for comfort. Suddenly there was a CRASH so loud it set the dogs to barking, plunged the house into darkness and pelted the deck outside the kitchen window with branches and chunks of wood that bounced and rolled around on the wooden planks.

Either struck with a bolt of lightning or torn apart in the ferocious wind, the tree that grew nearest the house seemed to have taken a direct hit. A nervous text message to my husband had him soon calling to check on the status of the gravel driveway that has a tendency to wash out in bad storms. When I could finally see it, peering through the living room window and the pelting rain, it was a relief to see that it, at least, was holding up well, but the yard was clearly littered with a huge amount of tree debris. Soon the downpour eased, the rain gradually stopped, and I stepped outside to survey the damage.

Gingerly tip-toeing around the mess on the deck, I looked upward to see what was left of the tree. The sun that had suddenly reappeared blazed back at me, the leafy filter that used to be there suddenly gone. A good chunk of the top of the tree was missing, an open wood wound on what was left of the trunk signaling its absence. I soon spotted it dropped on the roof, the massive end overhanging on one side, the leafy branches extending past the point at the top...and our internet satellite dish, now twisted and squashed, barely visible beneath it all.

That evening my husband climbed on top of the house, small chainsaw in hand, and began cutting off the smaller branches and tossing them off, stepping gingerly on a surface covered with rain-slick leaves while battling the incline at the same time. Dogs safe in the house, he let the bigger chunks of wood he sawed through simply roll off and bounce into the growing pile of timber below, mercifully missing the glass patio doors and windows nearby. As he worked his way through to the shingles he found that there were at least two baseball-sized holes that he could see from the outside, one made visible by the tree limb still sticking through it. Praying it wouldn't rain any more until a roofer could come and cover it with a tarp, he climbed down for the night with a better idea of what to tell the insurance agent in the morning.

At least we've still got a roof over our heads. That old adage was meant to bring comfort during times of distress; when everything else seemed to be going wrong and collapsing around one, at least there was a place of refuge and safety in which to take shelter. But lately a lot of people around me are finding that the storms of life have left them with holes in that which they earlier looked to for security. Those who trusted in their strong bodies and good health find both suddenly gone, taken away by potentially deadly diseases or the treatment of the same. Parents who used to provide good counsel and an open door have died or moved away from positions in which they can provide either. Many seemingly solid marriages have open wounds with life issues sticking out of them that those involved can't seem to pull out or cut away. Bank accounts are devastated by sudden job loss in a stubbornly slow economy that keep the doors of opportunity locked up tight. With no earthly insurance agent to call for problems such as these, many are looking to those around them to patch up the leaks in their lives, and react in frustration when they find that they cannot.

The truth is, we're looking in the wrong direction. We're looking about us when our eyes should be directed above. Just as I looked up into what remained of the tree and saw the sun blazing back at me, so when we take a moment to survey the damage and look up, we'll see that God hasn't moved, and in fact is more visible than He might have been earlier. Perhaps it took the very shambles of our lives lying about our feet to finally get our attention, to bring us to a point in which He becomes our only hope, and we at last look to Him and beg Him to take charge of situations that are rapidly spinning out of control. Bound by the laws of free will, He can't and won't intervene unless we ask Him to, and sometimes our pride and self-reliance have to take a direct hit before we are desperate enough to ask for that which we so desperately need.

Repairs are costly. The insurance adjuster and three sets of roof repairmen have plodded all over the thing, much to the consternation of the dogs below. We are grateful that we don't have to pay for the whole job. We owe our deductible;the insurance company pays the rest. The current debate is over what“the rest” amounts to.

Thankfully in the spiritual realm, God paid it all. Restoring our relationship with Him and now repairing the broken places in our lives cost God His Son. There is no way we could repay Him, and thankfully He doesn't ask us to; He did it out of His great love for us. What we give Him in return however is likewise expensive; He wants our hearts, our worship...and our willingness to simply listen to His voice and do what He says to get things in order once more. In short, He wants our all.

Part of the disagreement between the men who have examined the boards above us concerns how much of the covering has been affected. A trip to the attic disclosed more leaks than were visible from the outside, as well as a broken truss that triggered discussion about whether it should be stabilized or replaced, the latter a much more expensive option.

Similarly, too often we are willing to submit to God's direction only until things in our situations begin to improve. When the dust has settled somewhat about our feet and the chaos has quieted to some degree, we are quick to grab the reins of control once more, often with disastrous results. Treating the outward symptoms of an internal problem is not enough; we have to get to the heart of the matter. We are willing to settle for a patch job, when God knows we need to replace the whole roof. He tells us we must be born again, let Him make us a new creation, the old life gone, all things brand new. We don't need remnants of previous disasters hanging about us the rest of our lives.

In the days immediately following the storm, we were most affected by the loss of our internet connection, our satellite dish squashed as it was under the weight of the tree. We missed the ease of access to the web that we were used to, and found we were eager to head to our workplaces in town where it was available to us.

Likewise in the midst of the storms of life we sometimes lose the ability to hear and connect with God, just when we need to hear His voice the most. It's necessary sometimes to seek out places of counsel and connection to Him elsewhere until our own relationship and ability to hear directly is restored. He reminds us to join with others regularly for worship and teaching, and to heed the advice of wise counselors, the very things in our struggles that we are sometimes least apt to do.

The worst storms we go through can result in the sunniest times of our lives afterward if we deal with the wreckage on our rooftops in the manner God suggests.

But if from there you will seek (inquire for and require as a necessity) the Lord your God, you will find Him if you [truly] seek Him with all your heart [and mind] and soul and life. When you are in tribulation and all these tings come upon you, in the latter days you will turn to the Lord your God and be obedient to his voice.”
(Deueteronomy 4:29-30) AMP

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