A phone conversation between John and I, two days ago:
Me (in California): Hi my love….you sound tired…are you okay?
John: Uhhh, yeah…well, I was just cleaning up some stuff…. A tree fell down.
Me (visualizing our yard): Oh, wow. Which tree?
John: The Christmas tree.
Me: Ooooooooh (groan). How did that happen?
John: I don’t know. I barely touched it. I was getting ready to water it.
Me: Oh good- so you caught it?
John: I had a big pitcher of water in my hands.
John: Yeah. So…it’s definitely gonna need your special touch. I put all the ornament on the coffee table.
Me: Okay, I don’t want to hear anymore news from home. I’m sorry. I love you. Put the ornaments back on the tree. Miss you. Bye.
He picks me up close to midnight from the airport. As we pull into the driveway, I can see the tree through our vaulted window. There’s an odd look to it. The large, lighted star tree-topper dangles by its cord half-way down the tree upside down, Masonic-style, for all the neighbors to behold. I’m inside the house now, inspecting the damage. Branches are smashed on one side, leaving gaping holes, the tinsel I so carefully placed thread by thread, looks like a very bad hair cut with clumps and bald spots. Ornaments are stockpiled nearby.
It’s late-or early, depending how you look at it. I’ve just traveled from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Phoenix to Salt Lake and my baggage is still in one of those places. I’m a wee bit testy as I inspect what’s left of my Magnum Opus. John, attempting to head-off the inevitable mentions a little too cheerfully something about Charlie Brown, to which I respond, “that’s NOT what I had in mind when I spent all those HOURS DECORATING THE THING!!!!”
This looks like a scene from Skipping Christmas, as the mom flies into panic mode. Or Rambo. I drop my travel backpack and go from frozen alarm to Mother-Whose-Kids-Are-Coming-Home-For-The-First-Time-Since-Christ-Was-Born mode and scoop up an armful of shiny balls barking to John and Tim, “Here- just HANG WHATEVER!” To which John dryly replies, “Okay. Someone get the noose…”
After all, his day has been no picnic. Have you ever tried wresting a decorated tree back into a too-small tree holder filled with water by yourself while simultaneously preparing a sermon? Me neither.
It’s just a Christmas tree, but isn’t this a great analogy of life in general? We carefully plan, work, spend, take pride in all we’ve accomplished (it WAS a beautiful work of art, that tree) and in one fell swoop, our monuments to self, and our expectations- which my sister so aptly calls “planned disappointments”- come tumbling down? What ’twas, is no longer.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers work in vain.” Ain’t THAT the truth. And even when He does build the house, stuff happens. But there’s always GRACE.
Not one ornament on the tree was broken. A little miracle, that.
So, I’m not gonna “fix” the tree. I’m enjoying the irony. John and I spent some time this morning in prayer and in the Word, by the glow of our broken tree. I made him a latte, and one for me, too.
Emmanuel- God with us.