I’ve been helping my friend Gene prune some of the trees around his place. He’s got a two-story house along a quiet country road, with twenty acres of pasture and trees behind it. It’s been even quieter since his wife died last year, following a seventeen-year hemorrhage. That’s five years longer than the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was instantly healed. Gene prayed for healing for his wife and God answered with a quiet “not now, my son.” So that’s why things got so overgrown around Gene’s place; he hardly ever left her side except to come to church.
Gene is in his eighties but you wouldn’t know it. He has more hair on his head than I do (which isn’t saying much) and I don’t think he has an ounce of fat on his frame. Probably because you’ll often see him busy working outside, pruning what he can reach, trimming and mowing. The bigger stuff that I’ve cut, he lets me keep—for our wood stove. The rest, he puts in his electric chipper as mulch for the planting beds around his house.
He built this house forty years ago, after their first house burned down. I’ve always thought how tragic that would be—to lose everything you owned. All the personal things, your kids’ toys and pictures, the books you’ve treasured, business and personal records, heirlooms handed down from generations … and then having to start over with nothing but you and your family and God.
But that’s exactly what Gene did. Just them and God Himself. As Gene would say, “you move on.” I’ve never heard Gene complain about his lot in life. In fact, he’s pretty upbeat. A private person, to be sure, but not as down as you might expect him to be. You see, he’s lost more than his wife … more than his house. Their first child died very young; another son died in his forties when his medical condition was misdiagnosed someplace in Alaska. A third son was taken away several years ago; sentenced for a crime that Gene said he didn’t commit. But he’s still gone, guilty or not.
Through it all, Gene will tell you that he abides in God’s Word. He believes God’s promises; that the Lord will take him through whatever happens, “because He has already.”
This week, Gene and I will work to prune back a gangly wild cherry tree that droops toward the side of his house. It must be 50’ tall. Not an easy project but if we get a cable up high enough, it won’t bash the house when I cut it back. I’ll tie myself off so when that 10” branch breaks loose, the kick-back won’t knock me off the ladder. If we can’t do it safely, we won’t do it.
I’ll let you know how it went. Mostly, I’m anxious to hear Gene’s insights on what he’s reading in the Word. He believes that whatever happens, God knows and cares, and He will provide.
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