Last year we noticed some unusual black growth on some of the branches on the beautiful Schubert chokecherry tree in our front yard. It did not take long to learn that it was a kind of fungus or blight that infects trees in the chokecherry family. We found out that it is important to prune off any branches that are diseased just as soon as possible and dispose of them carefully as it is transmitted by wind-borne spores. So we got busy and cleaned it up as quickly as possible.
Well, this spring there were more signs of the blight on our precious tree. So we went at it again. Every week or so we see another branch or two starting to swell up and turn color. We watch it carefully and prune it whenever we see any sign of disease, hoping that we can keep it healthy. If the fungus is not removed, eventually it will take over the tree completely and the tree will die.
I cannot help thinking about how much that is like our lives as Christians. All around us there is a spiritual fungus or blight that affects us. It is called sin. Sometimes that sin takes hold in our lives and creates a blight in some area of our life. It is so important to be alert to the things that are causing spiritual disease in us and deal with them and prune them out as quickly as possible. If left untreated, the blight will grow and spread until it takes over our lives.
We need to daily examine ourselves to see if there is anything that is affecting our spiritual life and the health of our relationship with God. If we neglect it, it will only spread until it begins to suck the very life from us. But, the other side of this is that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
I do not know how successful we will be at saving our chokecherry tree over the next few years, but I have every confidence in the spiritual realm that God will not fail. The verse above gives us the assurance we need as we deal with the sin that infects our lives on a daily basis.
We had plans for Mother's Day. After church our oldest daughter and her husband and children were coming and bringing lunch. We would spend the day visiting and enjoying the grandchildren. But how quickly plans can get laid aside. Shortly after waking up Sunday morning I started to feel some pain that felt like stomach cramps. It didn't take long to realize that this was something more than a stomach ache.
We called someone from our church board to let them know that I was not going to be able to be at church, and they would have to fill in the service as best they could. We headed for the hospital. By the time I arrived, I was glad I was there rather than at home. It is no fun spending the day in the emergency department of your local hospital, but I am sure glad we have such places when dealing with that kind of pain.
It was a busy day in the emergency department. There was another bed in the same room I was in. It was occupied most of the day by an elderly woman who had apparently fallen and hurt her back. She kept wanting to go home, and her son kept telling her they would probably keep her overnight. Then a young boy came in through our room to an adjoining room. He was probably about 4 years old and had a broken leg, that they had to put a cast on. He was the most talkative, cheery little fellow. It was about 5:00 when they finally let me go home.
We have a wonderful church congregation. They managed just fine without us. Court looked after the music, and Phil gave a brief but very good message. I listened to it already this morning. I am so thankful for capable people to fill in when I cannot be there. But I still hope this doesn't happen too often.
We didn't get to spend the day with our grandchildren but our daughter did bring some lunch to the hospital for Val. It was about 2:00 already and Val was getting hungry so appreciated the food as well as the flowers she brought along with it. Needless to say, I was not up to eating anything.
Well, that was our Mother's Day. Not what we had planned, but I believe that whenever God takes us down a side road like that there is a reason for it. I am not sure yet what the reason was, but I know that no experience is wasted in God's economy.
I don't know anyone who enjoys going to the dentist. But sometimes it is necessary. A few weeks ago we were in to see our dentist for some regular check-ups and cleaning. But just the night before we were going, I had a piece break off a tooth that was already more filling than enamel. Well, when the dentist looked at it, he said I really needed a crown in order to save and protect that tooth. He did a quick filling to replace the piece that had broken off, and yesterday I was in for the preparatory work for the cap--grinding it down, taking impressions and putting on a temporary cap. All in all, it was not a pleasant experience.
But as I think about it now, I see some lessons in what I went through that can be applied to life in general and to the Christian life in particular. First of all, there is the reality that in life we sometimes have to deal with things that are less than pleasant. Sometimes God takes us through experiences that we would not choose if we were given the option. Yet, in the long run, these things are for our benefit. If I did not go through the experience in the dentist's chair, I could face far worse consequences later on.
Second, there are times in the midst of our experiences that require extreme patience and waiting. When the impressions were being made so that the lab can build the permanent cap, the mold was placed in my mouth and there is nothing to do but sit there, without moving your mouth, and wait. There is no way to speed up the process. All you can do is wait until the dental assistant says the process is done. Sometimes God puts us in situations like that. We would like to speed things up, to get moving, but God says, just be patient; you need to wait for my timing.
No, it was not a fun experience. But I am glad the worst is over. All that is left is to have the permanent cap installed in a couple of weeks. But in the meantime, I trust and pray that I can be accepting of the events and situations God brings into my life, even though they may be unpleasant, and realize that everything he does is really for my ultimate good.
Gordon Rowland has been a Missionary-Pastor with Village Missions of Canada for over 35 years. Gordon and his wife Val have lived and served in Clive since 2001. They have four children and nine wonderful grandchildren.