Thursday, 29 October 2020

F Fic, Non-fic

Cut Down

What to Do When the Worst Happens

By Jeremy Higley


One Saturday morning, in that early fall time of year, when the weather starts working to remind you that it won't be warm for much longer, I went with my roommates to cut down some trees for firewood.

Just dead ones, though. That's important.

The morning was moving along quickly as we searched for good prospects. We'd only cut a small portion of our hoped for load when we saw an oak tree so big and so ready to come down, that ambitious as the project was, we couldn't pass it up.

Why ambitious? Because the tree was far bigger than anything else we'd seen that day. It was an oak tree wide enough that two of us reaching around it might have been able to touch fingers, but that's about it. Worse, there was an equally large pine tree right next to it, and the branches of the two trees, one living, one dead, were intertwined.

Once down, though, the tree would give us plenty of wood, and we wouldn't have much more collecting to do in order to fill our trucks and go home. We had the equipment we needed: chainsaws, axes, ropes, chains… so we were optimistic. The morning was still young.

First we cut a wedge on the side of the tree that faced the direction it was leaning. Then we cut through the rest of the trunk, and quickly stepped out of the way. Because of the tree's size and the way its branches twisted up and around its neighbor, we were afraid that when it fell it would rotate and sweep the ground with its branches as it came down.

Except it didn't come down. The trunk was severed; we could literally see through it. There were just a few inches of wood keeping it up.

So, we attached the rope and pulled. The tree wouldn't budge. Then we attached the truck to the rope. The rope snapped.

We ended up moving the rope from branch to branch, pulling from different angles, rocking the tree on its axis. We twisted and yanked the trunk from one side to the other until finally, as the minutes turned into hours and the morning passed us by, the trunk twisted off its stump with a loud crack of protest and the tree fell.

Three feet.

That's how far it fell. It slid off its stump and then came to rest, upright, on the ground directly next to where it had stood before. The tree stood in this new position, the fork of its branches set neatly against the trunk of the enormous, still-living pine tree.

The frustration. We'd tried every bit of equipment we had, used up every idea, gallons of sweat, a few drops of blood… all for nothing. In the end, we'd cut the tree's roots out from under it, destroyed every part of its support we could reach, but we still couldn't have the firewood we worked so hard to get.

We might have cut off another section of trunk in order to imbalance the tree, but that would have been prohibitively risky. We couldn't be sure which way the tree would fall. We'd be trying to cut it so that it fell against its new lean, a difficult and dangerous proposition considering where the chainsaw operator would have to stand. We might have cut down the pine tree, but not only was that similarly risky, we had no permit to do so. It was alive. Legally, it was untouchable.

We spent a bit of time trying to pull the dead oak away from the pine, but because it was leaning against its brother, all of its weight was working against us. We even experimented with using a jack to lever the two trees apart, but there was no sure place to put it.

In the end, our strength spent, we left the dead tree standing there, supported in the secure arms of its living friend. If you're familiar with the way parables work, you can probably guess the point of my story. In the end, it didn't matter that the tree was dead. It didn't matter that it was severed from the earth, that every bit of strength it had was gone.

It had a Helper, a Friend, an ever-ready evergreen that it had grown up next to and knew it could rely on. By reaching its branches toward its companion, it had ensured that when the moment came, when axes and chainsaws bit at its flesh and ropes twisted and yanked and rocked it from its foundation, it could still rely on another Foundation that its enemies couldn't touch.

Our lives are the same way. We all come to a point when our own strength isn't enough, when our fall is inevitable. If we lean toward the Savior, though, and fall into His arms, His strength is more than sufficient. He stands next to us always, ready to stop our fall and keep us out of the hands of the Adversary.

A couple other things I want to make sure I emphasize:

The Savior is always there. The pine tree was standing next to the oak tree for a long time before my roommates and I arrived to cut it down.

The Adversary is limited. His bounds are set. What we might have done to bring down both trees was impossible because of legally established boundaries that we simply would not cross.

In the end the parable breaks down, because even though the oak tree was still standing and we couldn't fell it, it was still dead. It would eventually break apart under the stresses of weather and time, perhaps be felled by more experienced hands with better equipment than ours. The Savior, however, can do more for us than simply catch us when we fall. He can bring us back to life, spiritually as well as physically. He can heal us and build us back up, help us become stronger for having fallen on His grace for help. He can put us back in the ground, regrow our roots, bring back our leaves, reattach our branches and trunk. If we fall into His arms, we've fallen into a very secure place indeed.

John 15:1-17


Jeremy Higley is an author, graduate student, and freelancer. He lives in Flagstaff, where he's studying English Literature at Northern Arizona University. He loves Dickens, apples, family, and the good news of Christ's gospel. He recently published his first book, a fantasy adventure called Tales of the Darksome Thorn: The Son of Dark.

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