The Coronavirus has punched the planet in the gut. Initially a regional concern, it did not take long for the virus to make its way stealthily from the epicenter to our own neighborhoods. This tiny little virus has disrupted the rotation of the planet in ways we could never have imagined.
For the time being, we are down for the count and must shelter in place as part of a global strategy to flatten the curve. Shelter in place directives have impacted just about everyone in the world in one way or another.
Businesses, schools, families, and churches have had to find creative ways to do what they have always done in this season when the way in which they have always done things will no longer work.
We have all had to find new ways to grow and to stay connected with customers, students, neighbors, and parishioners.
Last week I traveled to Muldoon, Texas to do a memorial service for a dear friend’s mother. Muldoon is so small that were it not for the city limit sign you would never know you had entered and passed through town. On my way to the cemetery I stopped to take a pic of a fallen tree in front of a church building.
The fallen tree in Muldoon reminded me of another fallen tree I had encountered on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the 1980’s. When I returned home from Muldoon, I revisited what I had journaled after my Hill Country trek more than 30 years ago. I offer it here again in the hope that it will provide some encouragement to find new ways to grow during this unprecedented season that has knocked a lot of folks down.
This is what I recorded in my journal about perseverance and finding new ways to grow:
I first encountered the fallen tree on one of my treks into the Texas Hill Country in the early 1980’s. I had no way of knowing exactly when or how it had fallen. But there it was, lying on its side with its massive arms reaching up to heaven. I stood in silence before the fallen giant trying to imagine the great force that had weakened its grasp and brought it crashing to the rocky ground.
This imposing tree that had once stood upright was determined to live. This was a tree to be admired and respected. It had experienced a calamity that altered its posture but it did not stop growing. The evidence was there before me — branches that defiantly reached skyward with leaves gently shimmering in the breeze.
This tree refused to give up. Instead, it found new ways to grow.
The Psalmist declared that all things are God’s servants (Psalm 119:91). And indeed, the fallen tree rendered a noble service to God as it silently taught me the meaning of perseverance. Over the ten years that I visited the tree my own life was struck by numerous storms.
There were times when I wondered about my future and whether it was worth staying in the fight. There were times when I felt too weak to raise my arms and periods when I labored to exhaustion without the refreshment of an encouraging word. There were even moments when I actually entertained thoughts of doing something else, anything else. And, more than once I was the only guest at my own pity party! On those occasions God would remind me of the tree — and the tree’s upraised branches would point me to God.
God used the fallen tree to remind me that giving up is not an option, regardless of how severe the blow. There are always new and creative ways to grow. The tree also reminded me that failure never has to be final and defeat never has to be devastating. Those who have experienced and survived failure can attest to the fact that some of life’s greatest lessons are learned when we are lying helplessly on our backs.
A change in posture often gives us a new and uncommon perspective.
The great thing about getting knocked down is that we are forced to look up. So, I am grateful that a hike through the Texas Hill Country introduced me to a new friend — the fallen tree. Of the countless trees I have hiked past in the Texas Hill Country, none stand taller than this tree.
Disappointments, defeats, and disasters are no respecters of persons. When we least expect it our lives can be struck hard by disastrous reverses that leave us disoriented or send us crashing to the ground. When we are struck and stunned by life’s blows we can either stay down or find new ways to grow. I prefer the latter.
Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you get knocked to the ground.
• Uncertainties will come. Be prepared!
• Life is not fair. Accept it!
• You will get knocked down. Deal with it!
• If you can get back up — do it!
• If you can’t get back up — find a new way to grow!
• Above all, never give up. Dust yourself off and press on!