“Broken Branches!” Luke 6: 36-43 Key verse(s): 36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Recently, one of the most severe storms in many years pounded our five little acres. It came out of the northwest embedded in dark, angry clouds. We saw it approaching in the twighlight and could hear its snarl off in the distance as it rolled over farm and forest with a vengeance. It was calm where I stood, anchored to the deck on the back of the house. The birds were still twittering in the bushes, Your Creek was babbling and the ever-present mosquitoes were about their business with little regard for the fury to come. We have seen many a storm approach our little valley over the years so we are accustomed to a good blow every now and then. But this one looked and felt different. For one thing, the thunder was continuous, not intermittant. It sounded like a slow rumbling freight along some lonesome rail line in the distance, wheels pounding and clicking on the same loose rail as car after car slowly trundled by. The clouds before the storm were swirling masses of white popping up here and there and then disappearing almost like forewarning smoke signals telegraphing some distant and brooding attack. It began to rain, then hail, and I was forced into a watch behind closed windows. Soon the wind picked up dramatically and the rain moved horizontally pressing against the house. There was no watch for there was nothing to see but gray, wet smears on the windows. The sirens began to whine and we knew that it was time to take pets and ourselves to the basement and wait out the storm.
It didn’t last long, only ten or fifteen minutes and the storm was past. We emerged from our shelter to see a world bathed in the eery light of the storm’s aftermath. It was rapidly getting dark and it was difficult to assess any damage but it seemed that house, antenna, garage and outbuildings were reporting for duty. Yet, I had the strange sense that all was not right with the beech and maple sentinels posted somewhere out in the darkness. I could see that the ground was strewn with leaves, twigs, beechnuts and other debris. The wind had taken its toll; there was no doubt. Several hours later as I was retiring to bed, I heard an ominous sound. It was the nearby chatter of chainsaws ripping apart some poor, unfortunately fallen tree. The sound was close, so I put on slippers and jacket, flashlight in hand, and trudged up the driveway. There were branches everywhere and in the darkness I spied a faithful beech split, twisted and bowed to the ground. The chainsaws, I discovered, belonged to a highway crew working on another of our large beech trees whose boughs had caught the wind’s fury and, like a sail, had pushed the poor tree over onto the highway roots and all.
With morning’s light the aweful truth was revealed. Nine of my stoutest beeches had been either uprooted or snapped off completely. The storm had cut a narrow path straight through our front yard from the northwest to the southeast. It wasn’t a wide path, maybe only twenty yards wide. But nearly every beech tree in its path had been either stripped, cracked, split or completely dispatched. Limbs were hung up upon limbs and trees entangled with their neighbors. Clean-up would take days, if not weeks. As I slowly walked the scene I noticed something quite remarkable. Although almost every beech tree had been damaged, there wasn’t a single maple tree that had lost more than a small limb here or there. As several maples stood in the storm’s path as well, what saved them while the beeches were so ravaged? The answer was simple. Upon observation I could see that the beech limbs point proudly at a stout angle straight to the sky. The maples, on the other hand, spread their limbs outward. When the wall cloud smashed into Beechsprings, it caught the beech limbs like a sail. They gave only a little and then twisted and snapped. The maples boughs, subject to the same fury, simply bowed and swayed in the breath of that angry cloud. They lost leaves but their limbs stayed intact.
How like these trees we are when the storms of rent and broken relationships blast unexpectedly into our lives. Under the great pressure of wrongs and hurts not righted, we twist and turn as the fury of our own anger and bitterness blasts through our hearts. We try to withstand the tremendous pressure this brings to bear upon our lives by telling ourselves that we were the ones who were wronged. But, anchored in our emotions, we can only reach out and hope to withstand the fury of our own unforgiving spirit. Such resistance, however, is futile; it will only destroy us in the end. Without a merciful spirit and the willingness to forgive, we become stripped, broken and useless Christians. Like the maple, we need to be able to let the wind of our anger and bitterness rush through and past us. This can only happen when we employ a merciful and forgiving spirit, one that humbly bends and bows to the angry clouds of life, embedded with the hurts and pains of the wrongs that others inflict upon us. Is their someone in your life that has wronged you? Don’t try to bear up under the fury of your own hurt emotions. Be merciful and forgive and keep your heart green and growing.
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