We awoke that Saturday morning to ominous gray skies and strong winds. The forecast for the day made it dangerous to be out, so we called those we had invited for a singing that afternoon and canceled. Instead of walking to the paper box, about a quarter mile down our driveway, Keith drove the car, and as huge, plopping raindrops began falling, parked it next to the front door when he returned so he would not get too wet.
A few minutes later, he looked out the window by the table where he sat reading the paper and sipping a cup of coffee. Something in his manner made me look too, but I didn’t see anything.
“Get the boys,” he said very quietly, “and go crouch down in the middle of the house. Cover your faces.” I did exactly as he said, unquestioningly. He grew up in the Arkansas mountains, and he knew about things I had no experience with. A few minutes later it was all over with. What “all” was, I still did not realize. The power had gone out, but we were still intact.
We stepped out of the house, and the hay barn across the field no longer had a roof. Several water oaks and wild cherry trees were down on the long driveway to the highway. A large chinaberry had fallen right where the car had originally been parked before he decided to drive for the paper instead of walking. It would have been flattened if he had parked it there again.
Then we edged around the corner of the house on our bedroom side, and saw the worst of it. A huge live oak had split. Half had fallen on the power lines, but the line was still alive, wiggling and sparking on the ground. The other half, its roots mostly out of the ground, leaned right over our bedroom. We had no idea how long it would hold before it too fell and demolished our house.
We called the power company immediately and they rushed out to take care of the live wire, but they had too many other calls to send someone to handle the tilting tree. We would have to wait our turn. Word gradually spread down the highway, and within an hour, two men who worked timber drove up with cables and chainsaws, and those two men, who were complete strangers to us, took the tree down safely and with no damage. We thanked them profusely. “That’s what neighbors are for,” they said, and off they went.
A preacher friend who had been invited to the sing never got the message to cancel. He showed up amid the raucous roar of chainsaws, and heard the whole story. It impressed him enough to include it in a lesson on prayer and providence. The people in the audience were not impressed. Afterward they took him aside and scolded him. “God does not act in the world today,” they told him. He was astounded, and so were we.
When we become so intent on exposing false doctrine that we blatantly ignore the truth, swinging the pendulum so far back that we miss it entirely, something is wrong with our perspective. If God had no hand in what happened that day, then why do we bother to pray at all? Do we not believe James?
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” 5:16.
Do we not believe the book of Esther or the last 14 chapters of Genesis? “God sent me,” Joseph told his brothers who had thought it was all their idea, and God continued to “send” Joseph through Potiphar’s wife, the baker and butler, and eventually Pharaoh himself.
God spent much of the prophets talking about how He would work through the enemies of Israel. “Ho Assyrian! The rod of my anger! The staff of my fury is in his hand,” Isa 10:5. God sent those Assyrians to punish Israel, just as certainly as He sent those two lumberjacks to save my home. He did it because of the prayers I started the moment I saw that look in my husband’s eye, the moment I crouched on the floor trying to shield my little boys with my own body, the moment we saw that tree clinging to the pitifully few clods of dirt left on its roots.
I will never believe otherwise. In fact, why do we bother if we don’t believe it?
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Psalms 145:18-19