October 27, 2010

I love walking in the woods.  Now, I am not afraid to admit that I don’t know where many walking trials in the woods are, so most of the time my woodwalks are in Chestnut Ridge Park.  Fairly safe.  Many times we simply walk the paved pathways with an occasional step into the wild side.  But sometimes, like today we leave the roadway quickly and wander the woodlands like Lewis and Clark.  Except for the fact that we could easily summons help with a single, lung-emptying “HELP!” we feel like we are far from civilization.

Today we wandered far and wide, trekking into forbidden passageways never traveled by humans before.  At least that is what it felt like; until we happened across a long abandoned swing set.  It stood there silently, mostly swingless.   Six rusty chains hung straight down, hardly quivering in the autumn wind.  Two of the chains held a single, splintered board seat, weathered beyond repair, dangerous to sit upon, looking forlorn and lonely.  The steel pipes that once beckoned children to wild abandon were rusted and dull, holding less promise than the worn wooden seat hanging from stiff chains.  It had probably been placed there seventy years ago, and it looked like it had been abandoned decades ago.  But I couldn’t say for sure because, as Neil Young says, Rust Never Sleeps.

This abandoned swing set looked totally out-of-place, alone in the woods, far from any other piece of play or pleasure.  I did a quick reconnoiter and noticed random remnants of recreation from a bygone time.  There was a pile of stones that looked like it once was shaped into an outdoor fireplace, the aspen, oak and tulip leaves covered a small square piece of concrete that once upon a time probably  served as the foundation for a picnic shelter, and a glance into the woods revealed a long abandoned path, with remnants of asphalt indicating that a small service road once wound its way back to this spot.

So what caused this picturesque place to be cast off?  Why discard such a delightful spot?  Who knows for sure?  Throughout Chestnut Ridge Park there are dozens of swing sets and slides, ball fields, picnic shelters, ever restrooms that have been cast aside for memories and dust.  What causes such abandonment?  Is it lack of use, lack of funds, or lack of concern?  Could it be that children quit playing on slides and swings after I left elementary school, so they were no longer needed?  Could it be that there were a rash of random playground injuries that resulted in lawsuits that precipitated the abandonment of those dangerous playthings?  Or was it simply not enough use and not enough resources left the swings swinging silently?  Who knows?  Who cares?

I suppose the same kind of questions arise when people are abandoned.   I am sure many reading this identify with the words of Gideon in the book of Judges: ” But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”  Some feel like they have been put out to pasture, some just feel forgotten.  Maybe by God, maybe by friends, left to rot,  rust and collect spider webs.

But I am reminded of words spoken by Paul to the church in Corinth:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  II Corinthians 4)

So, if you feel abandoned today, do not lose hope.  You are being prepared or repaired; God is not finished with the work he has for you.  People may desert you.  No, people will desert you.  But God will not! God will not leave you alone or unused forever.  The swing set we found will never again hear the laughter of children, or the cries of “Not so high!” uttered by anxious mothers.  But as long as we have breath we have hope.  And God will use any and all that are willing to be used.  He may have to oil the chains and polish off the rust, but he will put us back to work for his glory.


One Response to “Abandoned”

  1. Awesome analogy! I preached a sermon entitled “Love Hurts” this summer. I presented love as a selfless commitment and illustrated the fact that love hurts when it isn’t reciprocated. The purpose of the message was to convey the fact that we can’t be fulfilled by anyone but Christ.

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