Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Philip Gulley, a Quaker pastor, wrote a book that is one of my favourites called Front Porch Tales. I have always found the stories in it to be down to earth and spirit lifting and I want to share one with you now.
Gulley talks about his neighbour growing up, by the name of Dr. Gibbs. Apparently Dr. Gibbs did not look like any doctor Gulley had seen before. He was always wearing denim overalls and a straw hat, the front brim of which was a green plastic sunglass shade. He smiled alot, and smile that matched the hat – old, crinkly and well worn. He never yelled at the neighbourhood children for playing in his yard. Gulley remembers him as someone who was a lot nicer than circumstances warranted.
When Dr. Gibbs wasn't saving lives, he was planting trees. His house sat on ten acres and his life goal was to make it a forest. The good doctor had some interesting theories concerning plant husbandry. He came from the “no pain, no gain” school of horticulture. He never watered his new trees, which flew in the face of conventional wisdom. Once, he was asked why. Dr. Gibbs said that watering trees spoiled them and that if you water them, each successive tree generation will grow weaker and weaker. So you have to make things rough for them and weed out the weenie trees early on.
He talked about how watering trees made for shallow roots, and how trees that weren't watered had to grow deep roots in search of moisture. Deep roots were to be treasured.
So Dr. Gibbs never watered his trees. He'd plant an oak and instead of watering it every morning, he'd beat it with a rolled up newspaper. When asked why he did that, he said it was to get the tree's attention.
Doctor Gibbs passed away some years ago. Gulley says that as he walks by the doctor's house every now and then, he sees the trees that were planted 25 years ago. They are granite strong. Big and robust. Those trees wake up in the morning and beat their chests and drink their coffee black.
Gullley goes on to say that he tried planting a couple of trees a few years back. Carried water to them for a solid summer. Sprayed them. Prayed over them. The whole nine yards. Two years of coddling resulted in trees that expected to be waited on hand and foot. Whenever a cold wind blew, they would tremble and chatter their branches. Sissy trees.
Funny things about those trees of Dr. Gibbs. Adversity and deprivation seemed to benefit them in ways comfort and ease never could.
Our children are grown now and have partners and jobs and places of their own, but when they were little, I would check on them every night before I went to bed. I would stand over them and watch their little bodies, the rising and fall of the life in them. I prayed for them and still do. Mostly, I pray that their lives will be easy. “Lord, spare them from hardship.” But lately, due to the circumstances that COVID-19 and social distancing, I've been thinking that's it's time to change my prayer.
As we live in the reality of not being able to move about as freely as we want, or to do many of things that bring us pleasure, such as eating out, going to movies or the theatre, or even just getting together with friends, I am reminded that cold winds will hit us. I know my children, as are all of us, going to encounter hardship and praying that it won't happen is naive.
So because life is tough, and right now more so than at most other times, I am praying that my children's roots will grow deep. It's the same prayer I say for you, as you sit in your homes. A cold wind seems to be blowing in our lives right now and we need roots that grow deep, so that we can draw strength from the hidden sources of the eternal God.
As we are connecting and worshipping in new ways, may we be rooted in God. May we allow our faith to help us to grow stronger. As Romans 5: 2 says “Through God we have also obtained access by faith into his grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Our current situation may feel like suffering but suffering builds endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Our roots, which reach deep into the Eternal, will ensure that he falling rains and the blowing winds will not sweep us away