Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Timber!

Perhaps a blog with this name should not have a post with this title, but nevertheless...

Several weeks ago, when the temperatures were more like those of springtime than the ones we are experiencing now, I had the joy of helping fell a tree. In the woods atop the shore of Lake Michigan, Miriam's dad had a dead beech tree standing sixty feet tall that was leaning to the west. As the wind made it sway the beech creaked and moaned with the plea to be brought down to its final resting. Delighted to comply with this request, we watched as Dad notched its front side, brought in the bite of the chainsaw from the back, then stepped back as the trunk separated from the stump and came crashing down with a final groaning protest to the forest bed.

I will never forget the face of my son Spencer who was running down the driveway at the time. He was oblivious that the tree was about to fall. When he heard the sound of the the limbs of the falling tree thrashing madly at those of its neighbors, he looked up wide-mouthed at it. In in his nine year-old boy's mind it must have looked like a giant beast falling to its death. Then, a few seconds after the silence, his face broke into a smile of delight at the realization of the victory he had just witnessed.

The next few hours were filled with the joyful task of splitting firewood, throwing the logs into a large-wheeled cart, then rolling it to the wood stack and unloading it. Each piece was carefully placed on the growing pile, where it would await its turn to serve us by providing warmth to the wood stove within the house. As my wife and children along with their grandparents worked around me, stomping about in the crisp leaves that were ankle-deep, their flushed cheeks, grunts of effort, and vapored breath all served as testimony to the goodness of what we were doing. What a pleasure it is to accomplish a family project with diligent work and unity of labor! Like a Google search, this time brought to the main screen of my mind other memories, such as:
  • Cutting wood alongside Dad and "Granddaddy" as a boy in the woods surrounding my grandfather's North Carolina home. Thirty-five years later I could still smell the damp wood and exhaust from the time spent behind Granddaddy as I rode atop the pile in the trailer being pulled by his old lawn tractor, the chains on its wheels providing extra traction and bounce.
  • Gathering wood and then placing it upon the campfire on the only Boy Scout camp-out I went on as a kid in North Carolina. It helped me to earn my Tenderfoot pin, which was as far as I advanced in the scouts.
  • Laying on the floor with my "tender feet" on the mantle warming before the fireplace in our den in my home in Coldwater on many a snowy Michigan night.
As we chopped and hauled away, not only memories but Biblical images arose as well. How often the Bible compares men to trees! Evil rulers who have risen and fallen - like Nebuchadnezzar of old (see Daniel 4) or Sadaam who has fallen in the days since then - once stood like mighty trees boasting of their power only to be brought to ruin (Psalm 37:35-36). Yet they are considered only as stubble before the truly mighty Lord (Isaiah 40:23-24). On the other hand, righteous men who nourish themselves on the word of God (rather than their own reputations) are like trees that continually live and are fruitful (Psalm 1:1-3; Isaiah 61:3; Jeremiah 17:7-8). As they eat from the Tree of Life, they become like one themselves.

Psalm 96:12 says, "All the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord." Indeed, even now each tree proclaims the gospel, does it not? And so does each man's life. Whether we are looking at woods or crowds, do we not see that either you stand and grow eternally in Christ, or you face the awful prospect of serving as just so much timber in a fire that will never stop burning?

If that sounds like too harsh an ending to this blog, then remember with me one more woodcutting reflection. It was also a tree to which Christ was nailed (Galatians 3:13).

2 comments:

James Faris said...

Indeed, and we see the entire gospel of Scripture so beautifully pictured with living trees, the Tree of Life, at beginning and end (Gen. 2:9 & Rev. 22:14) and with a dead tree in the middle (Gal. 3:13) through which men might again partake of the Tree of Life. Thanks for the post, Barry.

Phil Pockras said...

Let's not forget the olive tree of the Church of Christ in Rom. 11.