by Charles R. Swindoll
One year a large section of a tree fell not far from where we had lived for over twenty-two years. Within minutes several of us had gathered to grieve the loss. As I stood there staring in disbelief, the thought struck me, This happened only minutes ago . . . but it's been in the process of happening for a long, long time. No tree just suddenly breaks apart. Once we were able to see beneath the thick bark at the break, it was obvious that some kind of killer disease had been at work for years.
The city was notified, and within an hour or two they came in their orange trucks with heavy equipment, chain saws, rakes and brooms, and had everything whisked away in no time.
Not so with a fallen life. Unlike trees, people don't grow up all alone or exist in a world of stoic and hard independence. We mingle and we merge into one another's lives. All the while there is appropriate respect for each other—and for one another's privacy. So we back off, trusting one another in realms too personal and intimate to share.
But herein lies "the rub." A core disease in the thought-life goes unnoticed and untreated. No one knows that the pulp behind our healthy looking bark is neither wholesome nor healthy. And so the erosion continues its slow, silent, secret process. And then one day there is a sudden collapse, a terrible break, that allows everyone to see what no one expected. But because fallen people are not like fallen trees, many around the fallen one are always injured. A family, a circle of friends, a body of fellow believers, a group of distant admirers. And the cleanup is never efficient. In fact, there is no crew to remove the evidence and sweep away the debris, so the damage lingers . . . sometimes for years.
What can we learn from this analogy?
First: A good start doesn't necessarily assure us of a strong finish.
Second: Erosion could be at work, even though the bark looks healthy and the fruit tastes good.
Third: Strength comes from deep within. Invite a few to keep watch over your pulp.
Fourth: Never try to convince yourself that your fall won't hurt anyone all that much.
Hear and heed this warning: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall!"
Truly, "man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.