I have to remember that I’m almost 60 years old. I just forget (but isn’t that a sign of aging –forgetfulness? They say the mind is the second thing to go and I can’t remember the first!) So, I’m up on a ladder like I’m 20 years old, sawing away at a tree branch that had fallen on the roof of a utility shed. It seemed like such a small branch. Yet, when I finally cut through it, the branch, by slamming into my face, demonstrated that it was bigger than I thought.

So here I sit in bed looking like my wife won the fight and I wonder why such things happen (besides my stupidity). Really, God is good and all powerful, yet He allows these things to happen. Why didn’t he let the branch fall in another direction thus preventing injury to his good, faithful, and humble servant? After all, I’m a priest and I was trying to do a good thing and I’ve made so many sacrifices, etc. and etc.

Well, conviction comes from many sources and this time it came via android. I came across a quote from the website Mystagogy, a blog written by J. Sanidopoulos. The note came from St. John, Metropolitan of Tobolsk. Let me insert some thoughts as I read it.

“Thankfulness during grief distinguishes the good from the evil and clearly shows who is who.”

Oh no, I think I know what’s coming

“Bells, prior to being lifted to their height, are tested by blows from a hammer and when they give out an unpleasant sound they are discarded.”

A nice analogy, but I’m beginning to feel like a dumb bell

“Such is the will of God: He does not lift His chosen ones to the heights prior to testing them with frequent crosses and grief in order to see the fulfillment of their endurance and what kind of and how pleasant a sound they emit.”

No cross –no crown, eh? I’m reconsidering the sounds I emitted after the branch knocked me down.

“At one time God tested His great “bell” Job. The hand of God touched him. Would you like to know the tool He used? The hammer of the world, that is, the devil. But what sound did this “bell” emit? “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21). What a pleasant sound! But Job was still further subjected to beating. He came under the power of the devil, and his whole body was struck down; from head to toe pus and worms covered him, and he sat in his discharge. Do you hear what blows he received? But now hear what his voice gave forth: “Shall we not receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Oh, what a strong voice! Oh, what a sweet sound…..This is the indication of a good man, a man grateful to God.”

Ok, so the branch thing wasn’t that bad, but still was I wrong to complain?

“And here is the sign of an ungrateful man: if some misfortune comes upon him, he complains, laments, opposes, grieves excessively, praises his own deeds and proves his innocence (St. Antioch, Discussion 117).”

So, my gratitude is demonstrated by how I react to the hammer of misfortune? Lord, have mercy! Yet, it seems to me that the good folks get the hammer more than the bad folks. No?

“Thus the good and the evil are being frequented by misfortune without distinction, but by this affliction itself, one is being separated from the other by the all-wise providence of God.”

Yes, I seem to remember Jesus saying that the storms of life beat against all houses. The only difference is what the houses are built upon – the foundation.

“The good, when any misfortune befalls them, offer their thanks to God Who deigns to punish them; but the arrogant, sensual and money-loving blaspheme and grumble at God saying, “O God, what evil did we do that we are suffering so?”

Grumbling! Thanks a lot, St. John. Yet, I know you are right. The hammer falls upon all of us, yet not for spite, but to hear the sound that rings out when the hammer strikes.

Call me ding-a-ling!

2 Responses to “Ding-a-ling!”

  1. Leonidas Says:

    Not too long ago I attended the funeral of a friend who had the same experience you did with a tree limb, but his story ended with his death. I am glad that you survived!

  2. James the Thickheaded Says:

    Glad you’re okay.

    I think the old Anglican Branch Theory suggests that when you cut off a branch, you’re supposed to hang on to the branch… not the tree. My guess is that though the branch appears to have complained, at least you did better by hanging on to the tree than you might have if you’d taken the other choice.

    Ladders and I… we’ve agreed to disagree. I think it’s one of those things that if absence makes the heart grow fonder, we’ve concluded more absence must make it even better.

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