A few weeks ago, a storm unexpectedly ravaged our corner of the country. It brought hurricane-force winds unannounced, ripping entire trees from their roots and pitching much of our area into cold and darkness for days. By God’s mercy, no one suffered injuries, even though trees cracked and precariously teetered over every street.
The first night, we ate soup by the firelight, and found a sense of adventure in our sudden disappearance of modern comforts. We fantasized, as we have so frequently, about pioneer days, about carving out our own existence on the fringe of society beneath a vast, star-clotted sky.
For the next few days, as an overnight power outage turned into a week with crusty dishes in the sink, a frigid home, and foibles from toddler tooth-brushing by flashlight, our enthusiasm gave way to grumbling. Like the Israelites in the desert, we forgot the mercy of safety and salvation, and instead whined for fresh food, WiFi, and LED lighting.
My own propensity to complain unsettled me, as did the loss of my subsistence living dreams as they disappeared like vapor from between my fingers. In the weeks that have followed, however, the brief ordeal has unsettled me for another reason.
One of so many that we saw in the days after the storm, sprawling across the road in a tangle of debris, or ominously balancing in a web of power lines. Aside from the obvious threats of electrocution or massive squashing, though, the image has haunted me.
The tree was hollow. It fell not from its roots, but after its stately trunk cracked in two. Then it heaved, groaned, and slammed into those power lines, its shell splintering, its impact eliminating light and warmth.
It still had green needles. From a distance, before its fall, it commandeered the road, towering above the curled, browning leaves of the oaks and and the dapple-headed maples. Yet within, it was rotten.
Like us. Like me.
It’s easy to sing praise from the comforts of home, with Netflix and Amazon, iPhones, and thermostats. Yet what ugliness leeches from us, the moment we suffer an interruption in luxuries! Sin persists, just as it did in the wilderness, just as it did in Genesis 3. It lurks in us, hiding within the trappings of our homes, our broad smiles, our generous volunteer work at church. It festers unseen, and hollows us out. It waits for the next strong gust to fracture our foundation and pitch us headlong into catastrophe.
Yet we have hope. How gracious, our God, who made heaven and earth and yet suffered and died for us! How blessed are we, that Christ hung upon a tree, so that we might spring forth with life anew! He steels our foundations, and replenishes us with living water. Praise be his name!
Perhaps the cabin beneath the stars is not an impossibility. Perhaps with our inequities laid bare, our hollow core cracked open, we learn to subsist on his word, and to find in him the light that vanquishes all darkness.
(Aside: I’m sorry I’ve been silent lately — in between blackouts, I’ve been occupied with finishing my book. Thank you for your patience, and your prayers.)