Whew! I was soaked with sweat, and around me lay piles of dirt, wood chips, a pry bar, bow saw, shovel, spade, ax, blocks for a fulcrum and… a stump removed from the ground. It took all my effort, a variety of tools, four hours of work and a LOT of energy. When I finished I was exhausted but satisfied.
Last week I wrote about that stump and how it was held by something unseen beneath the surface of the ground and that, after digging down almost a foot and cutting every root in sight, it remained firmly entrenched in the landscape.
Removing it took persistence, patience, rest between attempts and a variety of tools. At last, after digging deeper than I thought I would have to go, using a hand spade, to uncover a large tap root going directly down from the center cutting most of it with a saw and then, putting all my weight on a 6 foot steel pry bar… it broke free!
Like stumps, conflicts and other problems can be deeply rooted. During my span of 25 years serving churches I have witnessed many a conflict in church. Whether the conflict was over theology, programs, buildings or personalities in every case I have seen that all ‘sides’ seemed to possess a portion but not all of the answer. When the conflicts have not been resolved it has been because people could or would not work together.
We are too ready to speak and too slow to listen. We are too convinced we are right and ‘they’ are wrong. In our failure to listen; in our failure to consider that we don’t know it all; we reject the people and the perspective of others without which we will never find the answer to our intractable problem.
In the Church God has given gifts to each of us so that together we become more, much more than the sum of our parts. I kept going back to the tool shed for something else. I kept going back to that stump over several days until it gave way.
Without the strength, gifts, understanding and presence of some of the most unlikely and even the least favored we may never resolve our most difficult problems. Jesus was murdered by those who exclaimed, “Can any good thing come out of Galilee? … Search the Scriptures and they will tell you that no prophet comes out of Galilee.” (John 7) They were sure Jesus was NOT the answer, to their own loss.
We need each other. We need those we think most likely to succeed and we need those who seem least likely to succeed. We need the most gifted among us and we need those who may seem to be the least gifted among us. No one among us has all the answers or all that is needed to find solutions in our world and in our lives. I needed many tools to break that stump free. We need all the gifts God gives us to uproot the problems in our lives.