As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11
It just wasn’t pretty. When we arrived in Cobden, Illinois in 1986 they provided a home for us. The only problem was the church was “L” shaped and the house sat right in the middle of the “L.” The reason that was a problem was whenever someone needed something, they knew right where to come. We might as well have had a billboard in our front yard advertising where the preacher lived. Every person needing some gas or baby diapers knew right where to come. That was all fine except I do believe they watched to see when we were eating supper before they rang the doorbell.
Sometimes it was a church member needing in the building. Early, oh, about 6:30 am, one Saturday morning my wife Judy and I were still snuggled down in our bed. About that time, we heard someone first pulling on the front door of the church and then hollering, “Where’s that preacher and why is the door locked?” Well, the preacher was still in bed, after all it was Saturday, it was just after daybreak, and the door was locked for that reason. It was just about that time when Judy said, “Dewayne, we need to move.” So, the church said OK, and we found an older Victorian home, made a ridiculously low offer (because that is all we could afford) and to everyone’s surprise they said yes. Holy moly.
We moved and began life as homeowners. Homeowners meant that we were responsible for everything. Things like yard stuff. Things like trimming trees. Things like getting stuck in a tree while trimming it. Yup, that’s right. In our backyard was a large and old Redbud tree. While it was still alive, it had seen better days. In fact, there were several dead limbs up in the tree. Mr. Homeowner, that’s me, decided to trim it up. I didn’t have a ladder, so I found a bucket, or a stool, or something to stand on and managed to get up in the tree. I sawed away with my handy pruning saw and soon I was ready to get back down. It was then that I discovered the laws of climbing a tree using a bucket or something. It wasn’t pretty.
I decided it would be best to go down backwards facing the tree. It sounded like a sound idea. It wasn’t. With one foot in a crook of the tree, I gingerly lowered my other leg to the stool or bucket or whatever it was. And, as fate would have it, my foot landed not in the middle but on the edge of whatever it was and yes, it tipped over. And what happened next still causes me to groan. As the bucket or stool or whatever it was tipped over, I found myself with one leg caught in the tree and my other leg on the ground. In other words,…I was in trouble. My foot with my leg attached was over my head and I was in pain. For a gymnast…no problem. For a ballerina, no problem. For a slightly out of shape preacher, homeowner…big problem.
It was so bad I have managed to block out the details of the rescue. I think it involved me hollering, Judy hearing and coming, and her somehow freeing my leg from the crook of the tree. I was grateful…boy, was I grateful. Like Jacob who left an encounter with God with a limp, I left the tree with a hip that holds grudges. To this day, whenever I raise my leg to do something, I am not so gently reminded of that day. I did something to something, and it was a lifetime reminder to not use a bucket, or a stool, or some other something other than a ladder to climb into a tree. I. Learned.
One thing that most living animals have is the ability to learn. Bucks get to be big bucks by learning when and where to go and not go. All the family dogs know who to beg for food from. His name is Papa. You get the idea. So, assuming you don’t die from climbing a tree without the proper tools, at least you learn how not to do it…and that is valuable. As we journey through life, God usually gives us a chance to learn. The important thing is to…wait for it…learn. Everyone makes mistakes but it is simply foolish to keep making the same ones over and over again. The author of Proverbs says it this way, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Sometimes the Bible just lays it out there, doesn’t it?
Well, that was a one-time experience. I can’t say that is true for everything I’ve done, but it was true about that one thing. There are some things in life that once is enough. But what do you do if you find your leg hung in a tree above your head? Well, you holler and pray. If you are lucky someone might hear you. The good news is that God will hear you and while I don’t know if and how the rescue might come, I do know He won’t laugh at you. He will just whisper, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne