June 7

Preparing for the Unknown

June 7, 2017

Personal Growth

It is not uncommon for people who are learning Real Love to tell me that in the beginning of their journey, they experienced an almost euphoric confidence. They felt loved in ways they had never considered possible, but then “things” happened—family conflicts, financial stresses, and more—and they found their strength and faith shaken, sometimes badly. They became doubtful of their former knowledge and stability.

Recently it occurred to me how I might explain these sudden shifts in strength. The other day I was pruning some cypress trees in the backyard, the tops of which had died in the severe drought of last summer. I was using a chain saw while standing on a ladder, thirty feet off the ground. Over the years, I had cut many tree limbs with a chain saw, and I had used the 32-foot ladder many times too. So, put them all together, and I should have felt safe, yes?

Not really. One can never quite know what will happen when multiple factors are interacting, so in such cases, it is wise to prepare as well as possible for the unknown—recognizing, of course, that the unknown is inherently difficult to prepare for.

One preparation I made was to fix a series of tow straps to the treetop, beginning several feet above where I would make my cut. This increased the odds that the top would tend to fall in the direction of the winch that was pulling on the other end of the straps. As I made the cut, the top began to twist in a way that resulted from the pull of the winch and the extra weight of more branches extending from the trunk on one side.

As I completed the cut of the top above me, the potential energy that had built up from the twisting suddenly became kinetic energy, such that the top and trunk untwisted violently, resulting in the heavy top falling on my head and knocking me backward from the tree trunk and the ladder.

Despite all my described experience and precautions, I would have been thrown from the ladder and impaled on the metal spikes extending vertically from the metal fence below—a gruesome way to be crippled or killed. But I had made more preparations for the unknown. I had worn a climbing harness securely fastened to my legs and waist, and I had used a strong climbing rope to secure the harness, the ladder, and the tree together. When the treetop and trunk moved, I was thrown from the ladder, but just for a few inches, because I was tied to the ladder and the tree. I experienced only some minor scratches.

As I had prepared for the unknown while cutting the tops of some trees, so we all must prepare for the unpredictable influences and situations that are certain to come our way. If we are not prepared, we might feel certain that all is well, but suddenly an unpredicted twist will fling us from the ladder we have carefully climbed.

We must prepare not just for circumstances that are calm and predictable. No, we must find enough love, trust it, and share it so that when the unforeseen comes—as it will—we are prepared for the difficulties. We must always be moving forward, gaining strength and altitude, because we cannot know what lies around the next bend in the road. As we do this, we are not “surprised” by that which we cannot see. Instead, we are prepared, and potential disasters are thus transformed into the learning experiences that prepare us even further.

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