Monday, February 13, 2017

Fall Down Tree

Every Sunday morning our family unceremoniously and rather chaotically piles into our minivan to head to church. Snacks packed (because when you have kids with allergies and sensitivities, sunday school goldfish could derail your whole week), lunches packed (because, let's be honest, with three growing boys, it's a long time from breakfast through church and Sunday School and that fifteen minute ride home is much more peaceful with mouths chomping) and a sense of having accomplished the impossible, getting all five of us out the door by 8 am, permeates the atmosphere.

No matter how we enter that car, I know now that something is about to change for our family. We are about to encounter "Fall Down Tree."

Just after we started coming to this church, we came across it. A huge tree, roots upended, laying right by the side of the road in someone's front yard. Somehow, this tree has become the focal point of our ride. It is cause for speculation, pontification and flat-out aesthetic awe.

How did it fall? Why don't the people who live there clean it up? How old might it be? Can we knock on their door and ask to play with it?

All these questions and more are answered in serious and silly fashion. (Maybe Joshie bonked it with his bike! Maybe Nate pushed it over with his strong arms! Maybe God blew on it and, poof, it fell over!)

But however it has happened, the conversation always ends with a chant. My youngest laughing and pumping his arms in the air as the middle and oldest chant "Fall down tree! Fall down tree! Fall down tree!" Dissolving in giggles at the end, we often enter church with lighter hearts and goofier outlooks.

Friends, this is a powerful thing.

You see, Sunday mornings have traditionally been calamitous. Screaming, crying, multiple changes of clothes, arguments. Usually this has culminated in two very exhausted parents who spend the greater part of the church service trying to remember why we even attempted to come to church in the first place. Too exhausted and defeated to even attempt to open our souls to what God may have for us that morning. Just grateful on some level that childcare is provided, we  would fight to stay awake during the sermon and then trudge back home again.

But now we have "Fall Down Tree." This strange and unexpected beacon of distraction and hope. No matter what mood everyone is in when we enter that car, as we turn that bend and "Fall Down Tree" comes into view, there is a shift in that minivan.

And entering church in its aftermath is a whole different world. Laughter has helped us shake off any early morning tomfoolery. Chanting has helped us loosen up our rigid need (ok, MY rigid need) to be early for church and the ensuing stress when someone has caused us to be late. Again. The camaraderie of three boys rejoicing together, united in spirit for even 5 minutes, gives everyone the chance to take a deep breath. To enter church with thanksgiving. To walk in with a posture that invites rest and redemption and joy.

Some day I am certain that that family will clean up the tree. We will turn the bend and as the chanting begins to rev up, the car will fall silent. There will be disappointment and mourning and the end to what is, at least for now, a tradition. Possibly we will pull some deep lesson out of its disappearance.

For now, though, I am relying on "Fall Down Tree." Because right now it is a tangible, beautiful reminder that any day can be reset. Any hard moment can suddenly turn into one of laughter and joy and lasting family memories. That giggles and silliness can be powerful preparation for inviting God to do His work of healing in our souls.

I know that one day, a long time from now when this tree is a distant memory, we will look back and tell the boys about it, about this tree that brought hope and life back into Sundays for our family.

Maybe God did blow it over for us, after all.

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