I posted this to my other blog this morning and thought I would share it here.
Let’s not forget to pray for the General and his family. We may never get the true story. I find it suspect that this came out at this time. But behind the headlines is a very real family. I know what infidelity does to a family…it’s so painful. And when it is so public it is humiliating. The Petraeus fmaily needs support, love and our prayers. Their world just shifted…big time.
My house is surrounded by huge oak trees. I am not good at estimating sizes but most of them are about 6 to 8 feet in diameter and rise to a lofty height of 100+ feet. These are magnificent giants. I enjoy their shade and watching the squirrels romp along their long, sturdy branches. They are messy trees in the fall as they drop millions of acorns not to mention leaves. In the spring their stringy pollen clogs gutters, drain pipes and it is tracked into the house where I try to keep a futile effort to keep it out. In the summer the squirrels begin to build their drays and drop leaves and branches. Each morning I arise to find a new crop in my yard. And it’s sort of fun to see how they travel from one yard to the next making a mess on different lawns – “The case of the traveling squirrels”. They have a whole neighborhood going in on my street! Anyone who lives under oak trees can identify.
This summer we had a violent thunderstorm one night and lightening struck hard. I knew it had hit close but didn’t think much about it. The next morning I was up early to fix my coffee and noticed one of my trees had split bark. I looked twice thinking, “I don’t think that tree looked that way yesterday.” When I went into my yard a little bit later to weed my flower beds there was shredded bark everywhere. Even on my roof! Still, sort of clueless, I picked up the large chunks of bark to throw out. As I got closer to the tree I could see that the bark had been skinned away – not off – just away from the trunk. It was a huge gash that went all the way down the tree. Then it began to dawn on me that the tree had been hit by a powerful bolt of lightening.
But I was hopeful. Since it hadn’t been girdled I thought perhaps it would survive. I hate to see big trees being cut down or dying. The tree expert came out and informed me that when lightening strikes a tree the sap boils and causes the bark to explode outward. Sadly, he said that a tree that size rarely survives. It wasn’t long before I noticed that the topmost leaves were withering, turning brown and falling. It would have to be cut down – and that will be quite a project!
It will leave a huge gap in my skyline. The shade it provided for my yard will vanish. The breeze in its’ branches will cease. The playground for the squirrels will go. It makes me sad and I wish somehow I could save it.
In all of this I have thought a lot about giants falling.
In the past few years we have seen giants fall very publicly and in very ugly ways. Politicians. Preachers. Actors. People we respected. It is painful. It makes us cynical. Too often we feed on the titillating details. We buy the gossip magazines. We think, “If they did that, then maybe I am not so bad after all”. In a perverse way we feel better about ourselves. How many of us stop to pray for them, their families and those affected by their fall?
I would hope that at some point we would examine our own lives. I would not like to have my deepest failings and sins paraded out on the evening news. Where are we, where am I, vulnerable to lightening strikes? In ethics? Morality? Finances? Addictions? Anger? Our leaders stood tall because we put them in that place. We like to put people on pedestals. We look up to them. Yet fail to recognize that they are just humans – like you and me. We stood in the shadow of their leadership. True and righteous leadership is found in God alone. We felt stronger because they appeared strong. Our strength comes from God alone. We listened to their wisdom forgetting that true wisdom is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Sadly we have hewn out cisterns that leak. Don’t hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13) And we are surprised when they fail. They, we, all need grace and forgiveness. The good news is that God is a God of grace and forgiveness. He redeems and wastes nothing – even our faults and failures.
This giant tree fell. But it doesn’t mark destruction alone. It marks a new beginning. Knowing God does not waste anything I began to think about the positive side. The shade may go but a new vista shows as mountains become visible. More sunlight will shine on my yard which will be good for my flower beds. The breeze in the tree tops may cease but the lumber will be used to build new homes. The play ground for the squirrels will go but the squirrels will find another tree to build their drays. God has already provided for them. And just think there will be fewer leaves to rake this fall!
It will be fun to discover what grows. There will be more sky and space. I’ll have more sunshine in my back yard. And I love sunshine!
So it is when giants fall. It is a time for a new beginning as God gets rid of the dead wood in lives. Sometimes His pruning is hard – lightening strikes – we feel stripped, exposed, angry, hurt, humiliated, ashamed but His purposes are always for our good. New areas for service and growth show themselves. God’s light will shine in ways not possible before because the giant blocked the light. Look at the change in Charles Colson after he fell.
When giants fall it is a time for forgiveness, grace, humility and self-examination. The scriptures say in Galatians 6:1-2, “…even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”. And again in II Corinthians 2:5, “But if any has caused sorrow…sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”
When our giants fail us and fall when we fail ourselves and fall, God doesn’t abandon us. He already has a new plan in mind. As we yield to His purpose for us we begin to see that what He has in mind is far better than we could have planned for ourselves. He gives us a new beginning and it is good.