Personal tragedies routinely happen all over the world, to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and even to atheists. No person, nation, or religion is immune to the acts of nature. Earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme weather, and meteor strikes occur in spite of offered sacrifices and prayers. “Shit happens” The following story is based upon a news report that appeared in the Indianapolis Star Newspaper, 2002. It was the tragic story about a family hit by a falling tree as they drove by on the way to church where the father preached. His parishioners and friends searched for an answer. Humans have a need to make sense out of the senseless and reason out of the reasonless. There must be a reason somewhere, somehow.
The Fallen Tree
On a beautiful autumn day, a little gray squirrel buried an acorn in the woods next to a farmer’s field. The acorn was just one of the many that the squirrel stored in hollow trees or buried in the ground in preparation for the coming winter. As often happens, the little squirrel forgot about the acorn. When spring at last arrived, the little nut sensed the sun’s warmth and germinated. It sent a little green finger upward to the light.
Over a hundred years later that little acorn had matured into a giant oak tree. It towered over all the other trees around it and grew a massive trunk three feet in diameter to support its huge weight. That beautiful tree might have lived another hundred years if it had not grown so tall. During a summer storm, a lightning bolt searching for the tallest tree found the oak and struck it a lethal blow. The upper branches and trunk came crashing to the ground, leaving a gaping wound exposed to the elements and insects. Ten years later it was dead and had lost most its branches and bark. It had dropped its last leaf and acorn long ago. Now, the descendants of the little gray squirrel lived in the tree and stored acorns there. Woodpeckers were regular visitors to the decaying tree, feasting on grubs and insects that infested it. Fungus and termites called it home. What was left of the great oak was ready to come down and be recycled into the good earth. It would provide nutrients for ferns, shrubs and a host of other plants including several tree saplings around it that were reaching for the sun, as it had so many years ago. Nature was doing what it had done for billions of years. Trees have grown and fallen in forests all over the planet well before the time when human ancestors lived in their branches. All was working perfectly well in nature’s realm. Nature was renewing itself.
Since the little acorn was planted much had changed around it. The farm had been replaced by private homes and a road passed not more than twenty feet from the dead tree. A road-making bulldozer had hastened the tree’s demise by cutting through some of its life-giving roots. Perhaps the squirrels and birds heard the tree groan in distress as those roots were severed.
One stormy evening, the squirrels felt a tremor and the fifty-foot trunk began to lean toward the road. The next tremor sent them scampering out of the dead tree to safety in neighboring trees. They watched excitedly as the great tree trembled and leaned a little more. The decayed trunk close to the ground began to disintegrate from the great weight above it. Then, with no more than a soft, crackling sound, the tree began to fall. At first the fall was almost imperceptible, but as it approached the ground it picked up speed as gravity did its thing. The tree landed with the crushing sound of splitting wood and crumpling metal. And then, all was silent except for the sound of hissing steam escaping from a ruptured radiator. The old tree had fallen toward the nearby road and, as chance had it, landed directly upon a passing car. The unfortunate occupants of the car were all killed except for a young girl who had been thrown to the back seat floor and had missed the fate of her father, mother and brother. The girl’s luck was as good as her family’s was bad.
The father, a preacher at a local church, was mourned by his parishioners who could not bring themselves to believe this was just a freak accident caused by simple, bad luck. Standing before three coffins, a preacher pronounced, “…God’s hand was on that tree. How else can we explain something that precise? It was time for him.” Presumably it was also time for his wife and son and time for the lone survivor to be orphaned. God had a divine plan far beyond our comprehension. Everything has a purpose.
Obviously, the tiny acorn, the forgetful squirrel, the lightning, the road, the termites, the decay, the storm and many other prior events, including the speed of the car, and the day’s schedule of its occupants were all part of the Lord’s divine and elaborate plan. Truly, the Good Lord works in mysterious and wondrous ways.
Nature is indifferent to human endeavor. It is obvious that we often see purpose in natural events where none exists.
Chilly Summer Storm
A chilly summer storm around a little man.
His clothes were drenched, his bones were cold, he knelt and raised hand.
He grasped the cross around his neck and thanked the Lord above.
The rain had come as he had prayed, it was a sign of love.
The flowers would show their heads at last,
grain would grow once more.
All life would drink these drops of love
from God’s own heavenly door.
The earth was soaked, the streams did swell, the waters rushed about.
The little man was swept away and quickly drowned, no doubt.
The moral of this story is that if prayer can work such wonders,
then the God, that hears these prayers of ours, sure the hell does blunder.