A Tale of Two Trees
We want life to make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Let me tell you a tale of two trees.
There was a tree growing by the side of the bucolic Merritt Parkway in CT. The trunk suddenly cracked, causing the tree to fall across the road, crushing a car and killing the parents of two young children who were sitting in the back seat. In an instant, lives were ended and a family was destroyed.
There was a tree by a lake. My sister-in-law and her best friend sat in the lovely shade, enjoying the breeze, looking out at the water, and sharing conversation. They got up and went inside the house. Fifteen minutes later an enormous limb plummeted to the ground, destroying the now unoccupied chairs. Had they still been there, they certainly would have been killed.
Why do things like that happen? Why was there one tragedy and one miraculous escape? It is very human to yearn for some reasonable explanation. The guardians of the suddenly orphaned boys sued the state of CT, declaring that the transportation department should have anticipated the tragedy and protected the travelers on that beautiful tree-lined highway.
That’s what we crave – some sort of guarantee that someone will be watching out for us and always keeping us safe. We want this formula to work – if we do everything just right, follow the rules, and mind our own business, our lives will follow a neat, predictable path.
The problem is – life isn’t that neat and tidy. Bad things happen in our imperfect world, often without any good reason. As much as I love my sister-in-law, I don’t believe she is a better person or somehow more deserving than the parents of these young children. Sometimes people are in the wrong place at the wrong time through no fault of their own. Just ask families mourning in Belgium, Afghanistan or India.
Sometimes people cause bad things to happen. Sometimes bad things just happen. God does not guarantee a safe passage through life. Instead, God promises presence – the assurance that in green pastures as well as in dark valleys, God will offer strength, guidance, and compassion.
Life can be frightening. We can make it better by reminding people we don’t have to go through it alone.