by Kat Cannon
We saw the line of thunderstorms coming. When it hit, we got the expected lightning and rain. Then, for no more than a few minutes, the wind howled like a freight train outside. It wasn’t a tornado – I’ve heard those before. But it was loud enough and long enough that my husband and I locked eyes and then checked to make sure we knew where all the kids and animals were. Moments later…it passed through and the only sound was the steady drops of rain in our chimney and on the window.
A few hours later, my daughter discovered it. Our big, beautiful Bradford pear tree in the front yard. Broken.
It looked like someone had come with a buzz saw and sheared a third of the tree right off. We never heard the crack or crash. I stood in the dark and wet for a few moments trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. The fact that not a single branch even grazed the house was no minor miracle – a grace of God for sure! Then the questions came. How would we clean up the mess? Would the remaining tree survive the shock? How bad did it look to our neighbors as they peered through their windows?
All too often, life breaks us that way. We might see the storm coming, or we might not. We certainly don’t expect things to be that bad. Then the howling begins, and when it’s all said and done, a part of our life is lying in shambles on the ground. The shock might take a while to wear off, God’s mercy in the moment may be easy or hard to see, but the questions are sure to come. How will we ever clean up THIS mess? How bad does this look to everyone else? How can we ever survive it?
I’ve seen it and felt it a dozen times in my own life and in the lives of those around me. The child gone wild – crack! The layoff announcements – crack! The beloved who is literally here one second and then gone in the next – crash! And we’re left staring at the pieces on the ground wondering how it happened and what to do next.
The morning after the storm, I wondered how things would look in the light of the day. Not much different, as it turned out. The tree was still broken, branches lopped off and in a heap on the front lawn. The neighbors stopped and stared, offered their sympathy. And then my husband got to work – he’s so good at taking action at times when I can only stand and stare and try to get my brain to process.
See, my husband is a woodworker. He builds things out of fallen trees and sometimes turns wood on a lathe to make beautiful things for clients and customers. And it just so happens that Bradford pear wood is his favorite wood to turn. So he inspected the heap of wood and began seeing it not as a mess – but a gift. He took his chainsaw and carved away the largest pieces, stacking them on the front porch. The rest of the leaves and branches and debris would need to be hauled away, but an awful lot of our fallen tree will eventually be shaped and formed into bowls and plates and vases of warm browns and white. Pear wood sands up silky smooth and light and is probably one of my favorite woods to touch and hold when my husband is done with it. What started as a shock will, in time, turn into a blessing for us and for others.
This is what God does. Our world rages and writhes in agony over its own brokenness, and though He will come and fix it one day, that day isn’t here yet, and so the storms come and break us. We are deeply wounded, if not now, then someday in the past or some time that is coming. When a whole chunk of us is literally blown off and laying in shambles in the front yard for all the world to see, He sees it, too. And the Master Carpenter loves us and loves the part that has been sheared away. Then, He does what only an Artist can do. He picks up the useful pieces, clears away the debris, and makes something beautiful.
What is broken in your life? Have you ever seen God take what the storm has ripped away and turn it into beauty for you?