Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tree limbs, fences and broken plates

Broken plate.
One of the greatest things to have in your life is an encourager, someone who nurtures you and builds you up to be and do your very best. Whether they know it or not, you probably know at least one person who has lived their life in such a way that you want to follow their footsteps. To have a mentor that will invest in you and walk alongside you leading you in the proper direction is indeed a great treasure. You might share a family name with them, live with them, or even be one of them.

On the other hand, you might also know people who just want to be left alone and do their own thing or even do things harmful to themselves regardless of your pleas. “I’m not hurting anyone else, it is my body and my life and I can do with them as I like”, is a common line of reasoning. You might share a family name with them, live with them, or even be one of them. 

The problem is that the belief that any damage is only theirs, is wrong. One of the hardest concepts I have tried to explain, is that everyone IS making a difference for good or bad whether they believe it or not. 

Then, I saw this, and it made sense to me.   

This beautiful plate was created for both beauty and function. One day it was bumped onto the floor.  See the crack? Yes, right across the middle. I repaired it the best I could, but it will never be “unbroken” and suitable for its intended purpose again.

Damaged fence.
A similar story with this fence that has been quietly doing its job for 20-something years by keeping our animals in and predators out. It was stalwart in its mission until broken by a fallen limb. The tree has been growing near the fence, doing its job of growing tall and providing shade and shelter for deer, rabbits, squirrels, lizards and a wide variety of birds. Its leaves have grown each summer and fallen each winter giving a blanket of compost for the forest floor.  Its seeds have been food for a multitude, and been scattered to provide little replicas of itself. 

The plate, the fence, and the tree were all given functions to accomplish, and did so until affected by an outside force. The tree grew old and was un-nurtured in the forest, thus developed weak branches. Wind took advantage of one of its weak branches. The tree now an “amputee” without a limb. The fence, not equipped for such weight and force, bent under the fallen limb, and although now repaired, it will be forever damaged.

Isn’t it like that with us? We were created and designed for our mission in life. No matter how strong we are, we can become damaged by the actions of others. A person who falls (into bad behavior) can take many lives with them, lives influenced by their actions now forever scarred by the betrayal or injury. They can neither undo the fall nor the effect. Like the fence hit by the crash of the limb, we can be permanently scarred by the actions of others.

When Christians become negligent in an area of weakness, we fall just like everyone else. The difference is, that our falls are widely discussed. The old question about a tree falling in the woods…in this case when a tree falls, not only does it make a sound, but everyone hears it. Especially, if the tree was a longstanding pillar, the sound will resound to many. Questions always accompany these “fallings” Should I believe anything they have said? If they could fall, what hope do I have of standing? Or, if it was OK for them, then why shouldn’t I pursue that path? The fall of one absolutely influences the faith and lives of others.

Before we piously shake our fingers at those around us, let’s consider some areas of possible weakness on our part. 

·       Sexual temptations are rampant. Bedroom clothing worn outside the bedroom, sexual innuendo, pornography has become mainstream, and sexual perversion is titillating comedy of the day. Adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are now perceived by many to be normal, alternate lifestyles of consenting adults, and are commonplace and without shame. You don’t have to be a celebrity to affect family members, or acquaintances who see and hear of your behavior and then follow in your footsteps. 

·       Marriage is throw-away if it becomes less than perfect. It is no longer a covenant but convenience, based upon the feelings of one party or the other. If it hurts, or needs work, it is tossed aside with tho hope of something better on the other side of the fence. Every time that happens, it makes it a little easier for someone else to justify the same decision.

·       Anger has hit epidemic levels. Retaliation for opinions on social media to being in the front of the freeway line is a rapidly growing movement.  Patience is considered weakness, and retribution is the way to get your own way, and prove your strength and superiority. When we try to justify our actions with “heat of the moment” excuses we fail to take responsibility and certainly will encourage others to do the same. 

·    Chemical dependency is not new at all, but is rampant. Painkillers are wonderful when used correctly. They also produce terrible results when misused. Alcohol is touted as having many health benefits, but only when used properly. Marijuana may have medicinal benefits, but also alters your state of mind, and ability to think clearly. Dabbling leads to dependency. Dependency takes away from your responsibilities elsewhere, and of course – tempts more to follow the same path.

·    The name of the Lord is precious - the most precious of all names - yet it is used casually and irreverently. We attach it to the beginning of phrases when we become angry, frustrated, or even startled. Sometimes we even try to pretend it isn’t really His name, just a sound-alike phrase or initials of a recognizable phrase. Without a reverence to His name, we lack an understanding of who He is, drawing all who hear us speak this way away from Him. 

Like the fence that did nothing wrong, yet was permanently damaged by the fall of the tree limb, always bearing the scar from the fallen limb, what we do with our lives can damage those close to us. If someone who loves you has asked you to stop doing something that endangers your life, your strength, and your testimony, then your actions are hurting someone, someone who loves you, at that. 

If I stepped on your toes, don’t worry, mine are pretty bruised too. I don’t want to lead someone to make bad choices, and I doubt that you do either. 

What can we do? Start by recognizing that;

  • o  Our words can hurt someone far deeper than we imagine.

  • o   Our anger can bring out words and actions that can’t be undone.

  • o   Our actions leave prints, bruises, and scars that will remain for a lifetime.

  • o   Our choices have an impact on all those around us – for good or bad.

  • o   Our neglect to recognize our weak (limbs) will eventually cause damage to us, and others.

Where then, do we go from here? We can’t go back and change anything in the past, we only can purpose in our hearts to have a different attitude from this point forward. How? Three good ways to start.
    1.      . Draw nearer to God
      •     Study His Word to know what He expects so we will recognize sin as sin, and 
      •      ask Him for forgiveness for our sins.

    1.      .  Seek His wisdom BEFORE we act.

    2.     .  Give our words, our actions, our anger, our decisions to God 
      •     rather than making those choices based on our feelings.

Father, we are in the world that is so full of sin we forget to call it sin. Thank You for showing us the truth about sin, and for Your provision for the forgiveness of that sin. Help us to be mindful of seeking You rather than responding to our feelings, or desires, or following the path of one who has fallen. Draw us nearer to You and than the world. 

What characteristics would you want to see in a mentor for your life?

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