Sometimes things snap suddenly. Sometimes there’s a teeny tiny deterioration that takes place minute by minute, day by day, over a period of time. I’m not sure whether these trees were weakened over time, or if they just snapped as a result of the weight of the snow this week. But I do know one thing. They snapped. And it seems to me that the snapping of one led to the snapping of others.
I bet you know where I’m going with this. Sometimes people just “snap”. Sometimes the cause is a sudden event, a certain happening, a tragedy of sorts that comes in with a fury and causes a negative reaction. It’s reactionary. But sometimes, the ‘snap’ can be a result of a weakening over time. Stresses, lack of rest, lack of sustenance, and constant pressures can effect us in the same way that insects and fungi can weaken a tree. And just like the tree, we can look okay on the outside when on the inside, there’s a slow but constant deterioration that will end up causing the snap. It can be one thing or a hundred, but if not dealt with. the consequences can be devastating.
Proverbs 4 is the proverb that has the verse, “Guard your heart with all diligence for from it flow the well springs of life.” Guard. Protect. Be diligent. Intentional. The guarding is not for just guarding in and of itself. It is to keep out things that are destructive. Like one who stands watch over a precious treasure, we are to guard our hearts against things that will weaken and deteriorate. Like slow moving invaders of insects and fungi that eat from the inside out, or a wind-driven snow storm that quickly overtakes, sin and daily stresses that aren’t seen through the filter of grace can invade our hearts if we don’t stand watch over our hearts. Guard. Protect.
Proverbs 4 speaks of foolishness and wisdom, and Who gives it. The picture of God as a Father instructing his son is a beautiful picture. But it’s not just poetry or a picture. It’s a reality of relationship. Relationship. God’s instructions or commandments are not just a “to-do” list or a set of steps or standards that are an end in and of themselves. God’s instructions are parameters that guard what is precious and protect the relationship that we were born for. Wisdom leads to protection. And foolishness? It can lead to ‘snapping’. Big time devastating ‘snapping’.
Foolishness isn’t always sin. It can just be foolish, unwise choices that weaken our hearts, minds and bodies over time. What we choose, has an impact. Food. Time Management. Relationships. Financial management. Stresses at home and work. The list goes on and on and on.
I had an ‘about to snap’ moment last week. Stresses and demands at work, coupled with extra responsibilities on the homefront, and topped off with a lack of sleep, had me muttering under my breath and thinking of words that I would be mortified if they crossed my lips. Yep. So not good. So incredibly not good that if I had let one of those crazy awful words that was coming to the surface cross my lips that I would’ve been seriously reprimanded at work. Yikes. And rightly so. I was stressed to the max. Like a tree about to snap. I’m thankful I could compartmentalize and use self-control and the breathing techniques (that I’m always teaching my students with behavior issues..hmmmm….) to not let me snap, but boy, it was scary to see me so close to the edge. Yikes again.
But…in retrospect, although circumstances were tough, as I was honest with myself I realized that some of my choices leading up to the ‘almost-snapping’ event had contributed to it all. And it has me going back to basics. The whole “seek ye first…and then all these things will be added unto you” principal came to mind. As did Proverbs 4. Back to basics with seeking God first.
I know that can sound very simplistic. But that’s part of the beauty of what God calls us to. If we choose that relationship of walking alongside the Lord and following in His steps, His ways, it keeps our hearts, our minds, our bodies, away from complications that come when we stray from the path. Walking in the woods on a clear path is enjoyable. Venturing off into the weeds can lead to lots of ‘complications’ such as becoming ‘entangled’ in things that we weren’t meant to face in the first place. God calls us to a simple walk. Disciplines lead to freedom and joy and strengthening the hearts and minds and bodies that He created. We so cannot control externals, but there are so many things that we can do on a daily basis to strengthen ourselves so we’re as strong as can be when the storms of life come. And we all know, those storms will come for sure. That’s a given.
I think it’s fitting that not only one tree ‘snapped’. There were three that came down and I think it’s no accident that they were all right next to each other. Our ability to withstand storms in life? They have an impact on those around us. When we are able to withstand a storm, we can be a support for those around us. When we fall, we weaken the ‘root system’, so to speak, of those around us. I so don’t want my response to stress to cause others to be ‘brought down’. Strong trees help fortify the trees around them.
So, back to basics for me. I’ve identified some things in my life that are weakening me…little ‘innocent’ invaders that are having an impact that I can see, and I’m guessing, having impacts as well that I cannot see. Here’s to life lived in simple relationship of trusting God as one walking, listening, and following. Not straying, venturing, becoming entangled, and ‘snapping’. Just a few thoughts from one who wants to be ‘like the tree’ (Psalm 1), and knows how easy it is in life to let ‘little things’ get in that can takes us from flourishing and growing, to weakening and snapping. Snapping is for fingers, not for hearts and minds and trees. Here’s to guarding our hearts and staying on that path that leads to Life.
Here are three different versions of the verse that will probably be on my refrigerator as a reminder to me this week…I love the visuals. But more than that, I love how God gives us freedom of choice, but has a way that fortifies our hearts, strengthens our bodies, and sharpens our minds if we would but choose to simply walk alongside Him.If you get a chance, Proverbs 4 coupled with Psalm 1 and Matthew 6 are good reads to help get back to basics. I know I’ll be going back to them again and again this week, like a magnet to True North. I need the simplicity and reality of these truths embedded in my heart right now. Here’s to living like trees planted by springs of living water (Psalm 1), not fallen trees on the wayside that just ‘snapped’.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverbs 4:23, New Living Translation
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23, New International Version
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4:23, English Living Translation