TUNNELS

TUNNELS

I’ve never been a fan of tunnels, but I especially used to dislike bridges. I guess that time when I was a little girl, & my Pa-pa Lehman somehow stopped on the wrong side of the arm that used to come down when they raised the old drawbridge heading into Decatur may have had something to do with that. I doubt that we were in any real danger, but my childish mind somehow thought that little caution arm would save us from plummeting into the icy cold river, which is also probably untrue. 

In later years, I’ve overcome my fear of bridges over water, & was so proud of myself for calmly driving across Mobile Bay a couple of days ago, enjoying the scenery & singing along to the radio instead of coasting across it in fear. Instead of fearing the worst, I sailed along & admired the view. No need to agonize over something that may never happen. 

But last night was a different story!! An intense thunderstorm hit as I was approaching the bridge. Extremely heavy rain & blinding lightning strikes caused me, along with the other hapless travellers, to slow to a turtle’s pace as I placed a white-knuckked death grip upon the steering wheel & prayed for safe passage.

When a lightning strike hit much too close for comfort, I saw the sign indicating the tunnel was just ahead. Now, I’m no claustrophobic, & don’t have a fear of caves or tunnels – I just prefer to see the sunsets, clouds, birds & seashore by being above ground. Yet, oh, how very thankful I was in that dark & terrifying storm, to enter that tunnel, whose end was not visible from its beginning, because it offered me a break & a temporary reprieve. Inside that tunnel, it was all that I could see – the tunnel itself. Yet it insulated me from worse things outside that I could not see. I wasn’t happy in the tunnel, because I wanted to see the moon, the stars, & the city lights reflecting off of the brackish bay waters. But I was safe. I could breathe, & temporarily release my death grip. 

All that I had to do was focus on the road which spread out directly in front of me. And I thought about the figurative tunnels I’ve found myself in over the years. Times when I couldn’t see the light at the other end. When I desperately wanted to break free, so I could do & see & be with the rest of the world. When I desperately wanted to escape isolation. Perhaps, just maybe, in those dark nights of my soul God provided me those tunnels to escape the raging storms. 

Do you feel confined & constricted in your life? As if you’re in a tunnel, which seems endless? Hold fast to your faith, for you will make it out. Just keep your eyes focused on the stretch of road immediately ahead of you. Give thanks for the tunnel, for it may be an unknown refuge, protecting you from a bigger storm. 

– Lou Lehman Sams

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MY LITTLE APPLE TREE

My Little Apple Tree
A storm is brewing outside as I write these words, & I hope that the increasingly fierce winds do not topple the remnant of the little apple tree in the back yard. Yes, I said remnant. When looking at old photos of the little tree prior to my moving into this house, it appeared to be vibrant & healthy.

However, by the time that I moved in, the pretty little tree with the straight trunk had been toppled by a storm, & the trunk had been broken into two pieces. As this was in the cold of February, its leaves had shriveled into brown pieces of decaying debris that clung stubbornly to the dead wood of the portion of the trunk that split off from the main trunk which was attached to the roots that provided its nourishment. One warm winter day I got a small hatchet & disconnected the dead part of the trunk from the live part, & dragged the dead wood out to the street for collection by the sanitation department. I was not sure whether or not that little tree would survive the rest of the winter, but sure enough, come Spring, its remaining branches grew stronger & it began to thrive once again. It provided shade & a vantage point where cardinals, blue birds & robins would sit & watch my puppy roam the yard. 
 

Rains fell, & watered the little Apple tree, & as Spring gave way to Summer, my eyes were amazed to see that it actually bore fruit! Beautiful little apples that enticed my feathered friends, & which glistened in the sunlight, giving testament that perseverance pays. 

  

 The little tree seemed to say to observers that even something that has been severely damagedby the storms in life can become fruitful again. And therein could be found hope for I, too had been hurt by Life’s storms. So throughout the Summer, I carefully trimmed around the tree, in order not to inflict additional damage to it with the mower.

Then, the season, as it always does, changed yet again, & the green leaves fell away, exposing bare branches to the winds of change. Yet the back yard birds kept coming to find respite on its small but lively boughs. It brought me a sense of peace to see them enjoying that tree again, & I was glad that I had not give in to the impulse to chop it completely down when I excorcised the dead wood.

  


But sadly, another storm came that totally decimated the little apple tree. The wind chopped off all of the portion of the trunk that contained any branches, leaving behind only an ugly little stump. I wondered why God would have allowed such a beautiful little tree to have survived such a storm as the first one, then allowed it to survive severe pruning, come back to life, only to be killed by a storm that was worse than the first one? It just did not seem fair! 
Resolutely, I set my jaw and determined to chop down that dreadful stump. Unfortunately, my hatchet would not do the job, & I did not possess a saw big enough to do it. I decided that I would buy the proper tool at the lawn and garden center the next time I happened to stop by there.

Spring finally arrived again, and the first couple of times that I cut my yard, I noticed that some twigs were springing back from around that stop. Since I thought that the tree had absolutely no chance for survival, I was no longer careful and my weed eater damaged a couple of the branches. I made a mental note to buy that saw, & put that little tree out of its misery, once & for all. 
But I got busy with work, & weeks passed, & those branches just kept growing. I thought back to a time many years prior when I had planted a row of forsythia bushes at my old house. A stubborn little cedar seedling kept sprouting up, & choking one of them, totally stunting its growth. I would prune that seedling down to the ground, yet it would just grow back. It eventually outpaced the forsythia plant. I did not go to the trouble of digging it up by the roots, because I did not want to damage the roots of the forsythia plant. The process of me cutting the cedar sapling down to the ground repeated four times before I finally looked upward & said, “Lord, I guess you want this cedar tree here more than I want the forsythia here, so I am going to stop fighting it!” That was over 25 years ago. Though I no longer own that house, I drove by there to show another house a couple of months ago, & the row of forsythia bushes that I planted remained, anchored by an enormous cedar tree that over 25 feet tall, & that is tremendously taller & exceedingly wider than any one of the bushes I planted, fertilized, & watered for over a decade.
 

It seems that when God plants something, it will indeed thrive, despite adverse circumstances. The little tree is swaying with the wind, & I wonder if it will survive this next storm? its new branches are straight & flexible, but still tenuous. The tree’s hideous stump remains, & the birds use it as a landing strip to tease my puppy into pursuit. When he gets just close enough, they take flights in a never ending game of cat & mouse. Or in this case, puppy & bird.
 

One thing I know for certain, though, is that if God wants something to grow, it WILL grown, with or without man’s help. And if He wants what He has planted to uproot something that man has planted, as in the case of the forsythia & the cedar tree, then He will uproot it. (Cedar trees have long been a symbol for eternal life, by the way.) I’m praying for apples this Summer. But I will happily take a cedar tree, instead, if that is what He decides is best for me.

“23 It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 And all the trees will know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said!”” – Ezekiel 17:23-24
– Lou Lehman Sams