I stood there looking at the tree hanging over our house. A large, double-trunked white pine, part of which hung over our kitchen and back deck, had split during the previous evening’s storm, and had been inching its way closer to our home over the past 24 hours.
We called a nearby business that specialized in difficult tree removals, and as the owner was describing the situation and justifying the expensive proposition to take care of it the following morning (assuming it didn’t fall on our house that night), he asked about the ages of our kids, as he had heard we had quite a few of them.
When I mentioned our oldest (twins), who are now 16, and our eight kids in total, he uttered the phrase, “I don’t know how you do it,” which I have heard countless times before.
He noted that he had two kids, and that was more than he and his wife could handle; his oldest child had started out as a twin pregnancy only to eventually become a singleton birth. He stated that it was for the best, as there was no way that he and his wife could have handled twins at that point in their lives.
The unintentional way we reject God
Not long ago, I published an article on change and why it is so hard, even though we are created for it. In the piece, I detailed how we often unintentionally reject God by putting limits on our ability to change and grow. While the reasons behind this are often understandable and quite human, the unfortunate thing about this is that not only does it limit our ability to find new sources of joy and meaning, it also limits our ability to grow closer to others and God.
Yet ironically, what we also don’t realize is that by closing ourselves off to potential opportunities, we might be risking a certain ruin that is not as obvious as a damaged roof or a collapsed porch, but one that simply deadens our ability to change as needed.
At times, I am convinced — as my tree removal friend attributed — that God recognizes that we simply aren’t in a place where it is healthy for change to be forced upon us, such as the case of having twins at a particular point in life. Thus, in these situations, I wonder if God supersedes his natural law and removes challenges in obvious or mysterious ways. At times, though, that forced change is allowed to occur, and then we are left to consider just what we will do with what has been imposed.
The question, though, is just what kind of life do we want? Do we want the life where we wait for the huge tree to come through our living space, and then figure out how to pick up the pieces?
At times, of course, we might not have any choice in the matter, and we simply must respond to what has occurred. Still, in many cases, there is an obvious limb hanging over us, and we are reluctant to initiate and/or be open to changes that might prevent a disaster or just an unhealthy pattern from getting worse. It might be significant issues in a marriage that can ultimately lead to divorce or estrangement, or a financial situation that is one medical situation away from bankruptcy. It might be the constant threat of anxiety that reduces our comfort zone, or anger about a circumstance that is so penetrating and so pervasive that we can feel our health and happiness plummeting.
Or maybe it is just an altogether shift in the primary purpose of our days, such as the idea of going back to work after years of being at home or coming back home to take care of offspring or aging parents after decades of a full-time career.
What will you do when you know it’s time for change?
Recently, I was talking to a friend who is a well-respected medical professional in the area, one who makes a sizable income while also having a positive impact on others. Yet for years, she has felt this calling deep inside of her that it is time to shift her career in a way to ultimately fill a significant gap that exists in the community. Faced with various logistical and financial uncertainties, and the loss of her current status, she has wavered on this decision for some time. Meanwhile, the limb that hangs over her, while not of an obvious catastrophic state, has increasingly threatened to zap the joy, zeal, and meaning that she knows is critical to flourishing the way God intends.
When it comes to life’s decisions, and the potential change that is either imposed or suggested to us, it seems that ultimately God asks us a simple, yet at times terrifying, question. “What will you do when you know it’s time to change?”
Will you tell me it’s not possible, that you don’t want to do it, or don’t even have the capabilities to try, or will you—-in all of your vulnerability—let me know you are quite afraid of the proposition, but that you are open and curious about how it could possibly happen?
The reality is, sometimes we don’t have a choice, as when a crisis behooves us to take immediate action. But most of the decisions in our lives are not momentary crises, but rather considerations and habitual responses borne out over months, years, and even decades.
In all of these situations, do we hope and pray that God will save us once again, as he may have with regard to the business owner to whom I spoke, or do we reframe our challenge with an adventurist mindset — prudent in our decisions, yet ever open to a co-partnership with God in whatever obstacles our path may hold?
Ultimately, do we dictate to God the kind of life we want and need, or do we open ourselves to ways in which he is trying to move us?
In the end, life is a guaranteed adventure, whether we like it or not. We only have God to blame for this. The question is whether or not we are open and ready to play the dynamic role that he has for us, wherever the tree limbs hang.