Repentance and Fallen Trees
Hurricane Ivan struck Pensacola with a vengeance in 2004. While I was moving to a new house, my mother and extended family in Florida were riding out the storm in her house. They discovered quickly they were right in the middle of the storm’s path. My heart wanted to be with them through the storm, but my brain and body were unloading moving boxes with my family 9 hours away. As quickly as I could, I loaded a chainsaw and a set of work gloves and drove south. I intended to “see what I could do.” I was a one-man disaster relief operation, and Escambia County was a disaster zone.
When I arrived, the house was dark. The power would not be restored for days. My favorite pine trees were gone. Some of the larger live oaks were shattered. But I had my chain saw. I did what I could do. I put on safety goggles and wandered out to the large back yard looking for something to do.
I started trimming away large limbs and fallen debris; but the more I cut, the worse it got. The more I tried to clear away limbs and debris, the harder the work became. I knew I wasn’t a lumberjack, but this was terrible. My saw and my back weren’t made for this. After a couple of days of trying my best, I cleared away what I could and helped my mom prepare to secure her home.
The house and she eventually recovered. My mother got a new roof, and we eventually hired professionals to clear away the rest of the debris. But in the process I learned a lot about tree trimming. When a tree falls, the work has only just begun. Twenty-five percent involves cutting down the tree. The hardest work is the rest. As you clear away debris, you reveal branches, limbs, and other debris that has to be removed as well. A fallen tree begins a whole new line of work.
In Matthew 3, John the Baptist says, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Messiah’s coming is like “an axe has fallen to the root of the tree.” The only thing that we can do is to repent.
After cleaning up after a hurricane, I think repentance is a lot like removing the debris of fallen trees. Since the Messiah comes and uproots our lives, then repentance is the work of cleaning out the debris in our lives that remains. The more you repent, the more you learn about what needs to be cleaned away from your life.
If you’re trying to get rid of deceit, the more you move to the light, the more you learn about the deeper sources of deceit in your life. The more you rid yourself of gossip, the more you learn about the other sources of vengeance in your heart.
The good news is that we have help and hope. The Messiah has come and has given us an opportunity to follow his Way. He’s done the hard part. Now the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Are we willing to change?