Nothing is permanent in this world. The last week has seen my wooded mountain home become not-so-wooded. The power company visited my property to fell the droves of drought-killed trees before they start falling on their power lines. A few hours of work and a team of lumberjacks turned much of my wooded vista into open skies.
After the sawdust had settled, I strolled among the wreckage. The scent of fresh-cut pine serves as a funeral incense, easing some of my shock. Once nestled in shade, the cabin felt suddenly naked, exposed to the sun. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sadness, especially as I considered the twenty to thirty trees that I still must be felled, adding expense to the losses I am already feeling.
The girth of the logs helped to distract me as I stopped to count the growth rings on one the largest. One-hundred and twenty years. That particular tree had, just a few weeks earlier, housed a woodpecker nest halfway up it’s height, hidden in a knot hole in the tree. I had been watching mom and pop woodpecker flying to and fro, constantly bringing in food for their young. I searched unsuccessfully among the rubble for the old nest. As I considered the fate of the woodpecker family, mine didn’t seem as painful.
“It’s not without benefits,” I began to rationalize. The house, having suffered wood rot from too much shade and moisture will be preserved by the full sun. It will be warmer in winter. But I’ll miss the mystical sound of the wind blowing through the tall pines.
It’s not the loss of the trees that really bothers me. It’s the reminder that there is nothing that one can depend on in this world. It’s the refresher course in death. That this kingdom is passing away. Nothing here is permanent. I long deeply for something permanent.
I long to know that there is someone in charge who doesn’t change on a whim. And that this is not how life will remain. In Romans, Chapter 1, Paul reminds us that we all have ample evidence of such a God. None of us are can claim that we don’t know about his unchanging moral character. It’s written in bold, giant letters across nature. God literally shouts his presence.
Why this discomfort with change? “Embrace change,” motivational speakers say. And they are right. For to fight it is a losing battle. Not that we can ignore it. The Second Law of Thermodynamics keeps us busy fighting the effects of entropy. We scrape rust and paint again. Keep changing the lubricants in our cars to stave off the wear of metal on metal, which eventually wins the battle. Pump vitamins and anti-oxidants into our bodies to delay the onset of age and disease. And in the end, we lose.
Is it because we are made in the image of God, who never changes? I think that’s part of it. We sense down deeply that the erosion of this world is not good and normal. Something has gone terribly wrong. Man rebelled against God and was cursed. Creation was cast into a long period of slow deterioration and death.
I walked back to the cabin, calculating the considerable work that lay ahead in felling the remaining dead trees and clearing away the mountain of logs that has been left behind. But I noticed increased wildlife enjoying the cleared areas. Quail had already moved in to enjoy the expanse, along with all sorts of song birds. Even in this destruction, there was evidence of creation and re-birth.
And so God has not left rebellious and cursed man without a promise. Even as he pronounced sentence upon man, God promised a savior. A redeemer. One who would come to set things right. And throughout his Bible he has promised that one day, all the destruction and decay will come to a final and conclusive end. He’ll clear the rubble as he burns this current world into non-existence. And then form a new creation that will be permanent.
From Romans 5, ESV:
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.