Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Have you been to an amusement park lately? Somehow I just don’t find anything amusing about being strapped into something called The Triple Tornado and having your body jerked backwards, thrown forward, hung upside down at 90 miles an hour, and then slammed to a dead stop like hittin’ a brick wall. And they call that amusing? Anything that makes me deposit on my shoes what I had for breakfast is definitely not amusing!

Back home on the farm, we had never heard of things like Ferris wheels and roller coasters. But we did find ways to amuse ourselves. One of the things we did for fun might have even been the forerunner of these modern thriller rides that kids love so much today. And it involved one old bicycle. No fenders. No chain guard. No kick stand. Spokes missing from the wheels.

What could possibly be fun about ridin’ that thing? Nothing much. Until you take it to ‘The Hill.’ That was the part of our Route 4 dirt road from behind our barn down to Coneross Creek. Fairly steep grade. No car traffic. But with only one bike and six boys (too dangerous for the girls!), it took all day for everybody to get just one ride. I mean, the next rider always had to wait at the bottom of the hill and push the bike back to the top to begin his ride. That was until we (they) decided to do ‘the double.’

‘They’ being George and Oliver, the older and (supposedly) wiser ones of this bunch of thrill seekers. One of them would get on the bike normally. Then one of us smaller guys would take a seat on the handlebars. And away we would go. At speeds approaching probably ten miles an hour, we flew down The Hill. Hands in the air and the wind in your face. With your legs straight out to the side so your feet wouldn’t get caught in the spokes.

But in the bright light of hindsight, I’ve come to believe that The Hill was a lot like life. Just when you’re flying high, something can come along and turn your thrill into a chill. On the roller coaster of life, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. And sometimes it’s a very small or insignificant object that upsets the ride.

Take our handlebar rides on The Hill, for example. When that front wheel hits a rock, even a little one, you wind up shaking hands with a rabbit in the briar patch on the side of the road. Or when the chain broke and came off, whoever is pedaling loses all control. That’s when you start looking for the softest place to land.

Our goal on The Hill was to fly like a bird down the hill, across the rickety wooden bridge over the creek, and come to a stop going up the hill on the other side. But I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times that happened. But did that stop us from ridin’? No siree! As soon as the skinned knees and elbows healed, we were back out there on The Hill again.

And so it is in life. I think we can all agree that our friend Joseph had some ups and downs in his life, too. From the palace to the prison, Joseph made a difference in the lives of people around him. And ultimately he wound up back on top of the hill. For one reason. It was God’s Plan for him to be sent down to Egypt to save lives. As the number two man to the king, he was in charge of all the food in the land during a seven-year famine (Genesis 42:6). And some of the lives he was able to save were his own brothers. The same ones who had sold him into slavery and sent him down to Egypt.

Maybe you’ve hit a rock in the road. Or the chain has come off your bike. And The Hill has sent you sprawling into the ditch. Maybe you woke up one morning and found yourself ‘down in Egypt’ through no fault of your own. Follow Joseph’s story all the way over to Genesis 45:5-7. There we find Joseph telling his brothers not to be upset or mad at themselves in their guilt over the way they had mistreated him.

It is the perfect picture of forgiveness that God expects each one of us to extend to anyone who sends us ‘down to Egypt.’ Back to the time in his childhood when they tore his coat of many colors off his back and threw him into a hole in the ground, even that was according to God’s plan for Joseph’s life. To put him into a place and a time where he would save lives.

And better still, Joseph held no grudges. As he told his brothers (Gen.45:8), in reality it was God Himself, not the brothers, who sent Joseph down to Egypt. So there was no reason to hold a grudge against them. Sometimes the greatest blessing we can ever give someone is to forgive them. Even when we’re not at fault.

Jesus set the example for all of us to follow on hill one day long ago. Mistreated and abused, with his life’s breath ebbing away, He prayed to the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. Even when a brother intentionally hits a rock to throw you off the ride, a grudge is the heaviest load we’ll every carry.

Totin’ it up the hill is almost impossible.