Falling limbs may be an analogy of your life. Years ago I read an article by Pastor/Author Chuck Swindoll and the truths in it have stuck with me and resonated with me to this day. We can all relate to it, because we have witnessed the “fall” in both human and non-human circumstances. As the story goes, an oak tree of venerable age unexpectedly fell in the center of town. People looked on in disbelief. The tree fell just minutes ago . . . . but the process had been happening for quite some time.
Trees don’t just “break apart.” People don’t either. There had to be some killer disease at work for years. . . unnoticed. Within a few hours the debris was whisked away and the place was left as though nothing had occurred. But this is not the way with a “fallen” life, is it? People don’t grow up all alone and without the opportunity for community. We don’t have to exist in a stoic, independent environment. We can mingle. We can open our lives to others as well as journey into theirs. While there is a sense of appropriate respect for one another and for privacy, we can back off, sometimes too easily, trusting each other that “all is well” in realms we deem too personal to share.
Herein lies the problem and our weakness. A “core” disease in our thought life or faith life goes unnoticed or untreated. No-one is aware that the “pulp”behind our healthy looking “bark” is not healthy after all. And so erosion continues in its slow, steady and silent process until one day there is a sudden collapse, a terrible break that allows everyone to see what no one expected. Because fallen people are not like fallen trees, many around the fallen one are always injured, whether it be a family, a circle of friends or a body of believers. And the “cleanup” is never efficient and seldom swift. There is no crew to remove the evidence and sweep away the debris.
What can we learn from this analogy?
- A good start doesn’t assure us of a strong finish.
- “Erosion” could be at work, even though the bark looks healthy and the fruit tastes good.
- Strength comes from deep within. Invite others to watch your “pulp.”
- Never try to convince yourself your fall won’t hurt anyone all that much.
Three other safeguards come to mind from a study taken years earlier by Professor Emeritus Howard Hendricks. As an afterthought to the moral failings in the 1980’s of prominent figures such as Pastor Jimmy Swaggart and televangelist Jim Bakker, Dr. Hendricks did a study of over 200 other men who were spiritual leaders and also experienced moral failure. There were three things that rose to the top as deadly oversights with virtually all of these men.One, they failed to maintain a regular, systematic time of personal enrichment in the Bible and prayer. Number two, they neglected to allow trusted people into their lives who would encourage them and help them with spiritual accountability. Number three. Care to guess? They never thought something like this could happen to them! Are you subscribing to any of these three potential threats? Let’s learn from their failures and not subject ourselves and those around us to the same vulnerabilities. Think About It.