Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t get there from here?”
Said to have originated in the US state of Maine, it’s used humorously when describing a distant location that can’t be accessed without extensive, complicated directions.
The place might be difficult to get to from your current location, and the route may be very hard to describe. People simply throw up their hands rather than try.
This phrase is now used more generally to describe a problem that can’t be solved:
You simply can’t get there from here.
…or can you?
There may be things in your life that you think are impossible to solve.
But with God in the driver’s seat, you’d be surprised at where you may end up.
Looking out the window here at The Faith Cafe, you see that the trees in the park display a stark beauty.
Stripped of their leaves in winter, they stand amid the snow looking rather barren and forlorn.
But a funny thing happens when a tree has lost its leaves: you can see things that you didn’t know were there before.
Going for a walk in your neighbourhood in winter, you might see that the bare trees are now revealing things that had been concealed by summer’s foliage. You might be surprised to see a bird’s nest the size of a teacup nestled in the bare branches; you’d passed beneath it dozens of times without knowing it was right above you.
Or you might see a larger nest, called a drey, which was built by squirrels. You’d had no idea that the squirrels had been raising a family there in their hidden home, perhaps in a tree just feet from your own house.
With the trees denuded of leaves, you might spot a kite or balloon that had been caught in the branches months before. Only winter could reveal this lost object. Maybe it belonged to your child: “So that’s where it went!” you think.
Or you realize that there are dead branches in some of the trees around your house that need removing. You can only see the problem now that the dense foliage has been stripped away.
So it is with us, too.
Sometimes there are things we can only see when we hit a barren season in our lives, brought on by a loss, a breakup, a setback, or a disappointment. Sometimes it’s only when something has been stripped away from us that other things are revealed.
The moon did a disappearing act on me recently.
As I sat eating breakfast, I could see the moon shining brightly through the window. It handily outshone the streetlights, which were still on at that pre-dawn hour.
But slowly, the moon grew dimmer and fainter, although it was still high in the sky.
What had happened to its luminosity?
Had the moon changed in some way?
No, the sun had simply come up!
The sun’s growing brilliance filled the morning sky, causing the moon to appear paler than before. Eventually, I could barely see the moon at all, even though it hadn’t set behind the horizon yet.
This puts me in mind of how we sometimes view our problems.
In the darkness of our difficulties, we often focus on what’s causing us pain. The source of our problems gets our attention, out-competing other factors in our lives.
But if we let the light of Jesus shine on our situation, the truth of His unending love for us can outshine the temporary nature of our problems. Our challenges appear dimmer in the light of His forgiveness, His care for us, and His promise of eternal life.
Have you ever had a day when you simply needed chocolate?
Maybe you faced some problems, and needed a pick-me-up. Or you were dealing with a heartbreak and needed a balm for your ragged emotions.
And you knew that milk chocolate just wouldn’t cut it, let alone white chocolate.
It required the stronger stuff. You needed to bring out the big guns to help you cope with your challenges:
Only the intense flavour and strength of chocolate with over 80% cocoa solids would do the trick. Nothing else would suffice.
Sometimes we reach a similar point in our spiritual lives, too.
The Christian life isn’t all a bed of roses. Oftentimes we face desperate circumstances, and we may find ourselves in a heap on the floor, crying our eyes out.
Maybe we’ve received a scary diagnosis from the doctor. We might have been let go from our job. Or our family might be in crisis: our marriage is in tatters or our children have gone astray.
We need help that is grounded in the gritty reality of what we’re facing. Sunny bromides like “Don’t worry, be happy” just won’t cut it.
We need to bring out the big guns.
We need the Psalms.
Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.
Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).
These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.
Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.
They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.
Surely there’s nothing good about burls?
But there is.
Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.
Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.
This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.
Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?
Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?