There are times in our lives when we might feel like a lonely park bench--our only usefulness to anyone is to be there when someone might need us, even though it may seem they could just as easily get by without us.
Recently, we had a Bible study at our church. The subject had to do with our purpose in life. Why are we here? For what reason?
Many people have wondered about themselves; but not everyone reflects deeply inside enough to discover an answer--they just wake up each day and expect the same as yesterday. Soon, the days are years, and the years decades, and the decades a lifetime come and gone. Life ends, never having sat and talked with the One who had the plan.
I remember a story of an old hermit who did not like people and cities. He traveled far into the woods and built himself a cabin by a stream of water. Every now and then he would go to the stream to catch a fish, and had a favorite log on which he sat.
One day, the log spoke to him. "I want to thank you for sitting here--it gets so lonely at times when there is no one to talk to."
The hermit was infuriated. "Shut up! I came out here to get away from people! I do not wish to talk to you, or anyone!" So the log was silent.
After a few days, the log made another attempt. But this made the hermit even madder. "If you do this again, I will chop you up for firewood!" he angrily replied.
The log then gave up and was silent. Several months went by. Winter snows fell, and the hermit spent most of his days inside the cabin. But then came springtime. The migratory birds were returning..bright green leaves were appearing on the trees. The heavy snows began to melt.
It had been a particularly hard winter, and as the snow began to turn to water, the streams were also affected; they began to overflow their banks, and the little stream by the hermit's cabin was no exception. The little stream became a torrent, and soon the cabin and the hermit were in the water themselves.
What a frightening time! The hermit was afraid and knew he was in danger of drowning. As he became tired, he saw a log passing by. If he could just get to it and hang on! So he struggled and swam toward it. It was the very one he always sat on when he fished!
"Help me!" he cried to the log. "Oh...it is you!" said the log. "Sure. I will help you," and the log came close by so the hermit could grab it, and they both headed for shore. Exhausted, the hermit climbed up on the banks. Then he looked behind him. There was the log..waiting. "Do you mind pulling me along too?" it asked. So the hermit reached down and helped the log out of the water.
"Wow! That was a narrow escape!" said the hermit to the log. "Yes it was" replied the log. "But I am puzzled. When I tried to talk to you, you told me never to speak again. So I didn't. But when you needed me, you finally talked to me." "What you didn't realize was that God was trying to speak to you through me--yes, a log! He wanted me to tell you about His love for you."
The old hermit bowed his head. "Yes. And I am so sorry. Please forgive me."
It was not long until another cabin was built, and the hermit made sure that the old log was back on the river banks....where people were last seen dropping by to chat with a happy old man sitting along the banks of that stream with a fishing pole, laughing and telling them something about a particular log...
The park bench was perhaps a huge log split into and made smooth. Once a stately tree reaching to the heavens, someone saw it useful for a bench and made it so because that person had people in mind. He purposely placed it along the pathway people might chose to walk. It is there for one reason--to offer a place they might come apart and rest, breathe in the smells, admire beauty of trees, hear the birds, in a solititude that is far from the sounds of traffic and human commerce--and to think about life.
It might not be such a complicated subject at all. For out of His love for us, God had purpose even in the life of those particular trees and placed that old log along the riverbank and the wooden bench in the park. Many around it would be cut down for other reasons-- to build the houses you and I would return to, or to release oxygen in the air you and I would breathe and provide nutrients for the soil to grow the food you and I would eat....yet each one was essential and important. All of them were created with you and I in mind.
Many times I have stopped to wonder why I am where I am--why did God send me this place or that place? (Some of which I would rather stay away from). Why did He put certain individuals into my life? (Some of whom I thought I would have rather never met). Why did events happen that upset my life and took my Linus blanket from me? Why am I allowed difficulties, when I so enjoy peace? Why sickness and disease if I so enjoy health? If God knows my thoughts "afar off", then why doesn't He go my way?
Reasons are sometimes mysteries...yet I believe there is purpose behind all things and nothing in our pathway is insignificant or unimportant. Perhaps that is the purpose they are there--that we might stop to thank and appreciate God for His care and provision for us, even in the smallest of ways, to help us come to understand for what purpose they happen.
For when I am tired and needing a rest, a park bench is far nicer than damp leaves on a forest floor...and perhaps during the moments of comfortable solititude as I sit there, I will come to know His reasons.
Jonah sat under a gourd vine and learned his.
Elijah sat by a juniper tree and learned his.
Joseph sat in a prison-house and learned his.
And having sat with each of them for awhile in times past, I believe those two old logs discovered their reasons long ago:
They are there as a inviting place to rest, so you and I might find ours.
MARY ELIZABETH ADAMS