Today, I paid to have a large pile of dead tree limbs and other brush removed from my yard. I really hated to waste money on an expense that offers so little in the way of tangible benefit (other than the absence of the pile). But the stack had grown far too large for me to haul it away myself…and it was too close to healthy trees to burn…and with my family trying to sell our house, we needed to do something to get rid of this major eyesore.
The great heartache in the project, however, was that I had never intended to let so much brush accumulate in the first place. The back-story goes like this: I had been visiting with a friend who had a large section of cement conduit (about 2 feet high and 5 feet across) that he was using as a backyard fire-pit. It was the perfect thing for gathering friends to engage in warm conversation (and the occasional marshmallow roast), and—when I expressed admiration for it—he promised me that he could get one for me, as well. So I started stockpiling broken limbs and sections of fallen tree, just waiting for the day that they’d become the fuel for many a family campfire. But that was three years ago…and my section of conduit never came. I suppose I should have realized when my friend moved away about a year ago that it was never going to happen. But by that time, I already had a big pile. So I just kept adding to it until—at last—the task of clearing it could wait no longer.
Funny, isn’t it, how things have a way of accumulating in our lives? We never intend for it to happen. But somehow a pile of “stuff” (or a mound of debt…or a stack of regret…or a heap of bitterness…or a mountain of sin) imperceptibly begins to grow around us. And we’d like to get rid of it, but at the time it doesn’t seem like a big deal…or its too close to things that matter to destroy without hurting something else…or it’s just too big for us to handle on our own. Then inevitably, the day comes when the pile can wait no longer; and dealing with it at that point is often far more painful than it would have been had we only acted sooner.
Thankfully, there are companies we can call to remove our piles of dead tree limbs. But a cause for even greater gratitude is the fact that there’s a God we can call to remove our other piles of stuff: a God who heals brokenness and forgives sin; a God who removes regret and restores our spirit. And unlike the local tree service (which charges a pretty penny, even out here in the rural south), God’s clearing service is offered as a gift of grace. Our Heavenly Father delights to haul the trash out of our lives, so that—in its place—something beautiful can grow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
(Psalm 51:10, 16-17)