One year older. . .but wiser too? Photo by Jordan Benton.
A look to the past—reflection!
A page of life has turned.
From all my many yesterdays,
There’s much that I have learned.
A look to the future—hope!
For the promise that it brings.
The dreams fulfilled that may be mine
On tomorrow’s golden wings.
A look to the present—action!
Required for me to win.
For today is all that I control;
It’s birthday time again.
What is the one day of the year that causes introspection and reflection? The day that also causes a look to the future with purpose and planning? The one day that is bittersweet as you realize another year has come and gone? Some may say New Year’s, but I disagree. For me, it is my birthday. The day when the lines from the primary song run through my mind “one year older and wiser too, happy birthday to you!” The day when I realize that, yes, I am one year older but am I really wiser? The day I am reminded that life is finite, the number of my years is set, and I have just used up another in my allotment.
This year I was reminded of something important. As helpful or hurtful as the past may be; and regardless of the promise of the future, the only thing we control is today. Right now. The present. And the most important thing we can do with our here and now is strive to be guided by heaven—to hear correctly and act accordingly. This was reinforced this year by two stories that happened just days before and days after my birthday.
First, the bad example. I had a large cottonwood tree in my front yard that had grown up into the power lines. Several years ago, the power company came out and scalped half of the tree vertically to clear it away from the lines. That left only half a tree that was lop-sided and leaning towards my house. Not only was it uneven and ugly; but several main branches were dead or dying, and I was worried that a strong wind may blow the big tree onto my home. Additionally, cottonwoods shed sticks and limbs constantly; and every time I mowed, I had to pick up debris beforehand. It was also hard to water the lawn with the tree there; and, finally, it was starting to crack and raise the driveway. I decided that as soon as it started to warm up in the spring, and before it leafed out, I would take the tree out. The problem was that several large, main limbs were growing right next to and above the power lines.
Not long after my decision to remove the tree, I came home from work one day and saw a note from the power company saying they were coming out sometime in the next six weeks to do some more trimming. Perfect, I thought, maybe they can cut down the branches above the power lines and then I can cut the rest down myself. I called the number on the note and asked if this was possible. I was told that they would not do that and I would have to hire someone to remove the higher branches.
A few weeks went by and the tree started to bud. So, I called a company to come cut the tree down. After hanging up, I had a bad feeling about the whole thing. I shrugged it off. The next day when I came home from work I saw the tree standing there and had that same bad feeling again. It bothered me so much that I stood next to the tree and again went over all the reasons why it should go. Still, I had this feeling that I should not spend the $450 dollars to have someone come cut the tree down. Maybe I should wait to talk in person to the guys that come out from the power company and see if they would cut the high branches. . . . But that could be weeks from now and the tree was already starting to leaf out. Besides, I had already called and they had already said they would not do that. What is more, they will probably come by on a day that I am at work and I won’t be able to talk with them anyway. Not seeing any logical reason why I should not proceed, I shrugged off the bad feeling again.
Two days later, I had the tree cut down.
Two day after that, I had the day off and had just started cleaning up the remnants of the cottonwood when I heard a chainsaw down the street. Looking down the road, I saw the power company trimming a neighbor’s tree. I had a weird feeling. Here they were, on this day I have off work, the day I could have walked out and asked if they would cut the high branches and maybe saved myself the $450. I intellectually consoled myself by saying it didn’t matter—I had already asked that question and was told no.
Funny thing is, intellectual consolation aside, God was going to make His point. A few minutes later, the power company trimmers pulled up in front of my house. The man got out and said he could see that I took the tree down. He figured I had done it myself and said it was lucky nothing hit the power lines. He went on to say that I should have given the power company a call and they would have come out and cut the high branches down below the power lines and then I could have safely done the rest.
The unsettled feelings I had previously had all instantly made sense. God had known all along when the power company trimmers would come by and what they would have done. Regardless of what I had been told when I called, this man at my home right now would have cut the high branches. All my limited, logical, mortal reasoning was worthless in comparison to what Gods knew. . . and it only cost me $450 dollars to learn a lesson I should have known already. The bad thing is that I still failed to hear correctly and act accordingly.
This second story shows the opposite result. A lady spoke at church last week and brought with her a large vase filled with dozens of colorful daffodils. These were not your common daffodils mind you, they were colorful, unique, varied, and gorgeous. During her talk, she continued to rotate the vase to show off the variety of blooms.
She said the day before, Saturday, was busy. She was neck deep in chores and tasks when she suddenly had the thought, “Go cut the daffodils, NOW!” There were a thousand reasons why not to cut the daffodils and even more reasons why not to do it right then. Still, she dropped everything and went. She had just finished collecting her glorious bouquet when a storm hit. The storm brought with it large chunks of hail. The fragile flowers that remained outside were shredded and destroyed. But the ones in the vase were perfect—because someone had heard correctly and acted accordingly.
Some may say it is simple—even silly—to talk of trees and daffodils. There are many more important, complex, and pressing issues in the world and in our lives. At the end of the day, they might say, what does a tree or a flower really matter? Perhaps they are right.
Then again, perhaps not.
Written: April 2017