One day I had a professional photo taken.
In front of the media facility, I noticed one of those “road hazard” cones which someone had left on the grass. At first, it looked as if somebody had stuffed a handful of grass into the hole at the top end of the cone. But that wasn’t the case. Actually, young blades of grass were growing up through the top of the cone.
Far from being an obstacle to the young grass, the translucent cone allowed light to pass through to the grass, while protecting the grass from the blustery winds of spring – not to mention from the “weed-eater’s” fury. The cone also provided support to the grass so that it could become taller than all the surrounding turf. Certainly the cone’s protection gave every advantage to this tuft of grass.
Yet I knew that, sooner or later, the Public Works folks were going to come looking for their missing cone. And when they claimed it, I wondered, “What will happen to the grass that’s been nurtured and caressed by the cone for so long?”
So, I removed the cone – and I got my answer. The tuft of grass, so sheltered by the cone, stood tall for about one second before the prevailing breeze knocked it right over. The grass, so unaccustomed to the wind, did not have the strength to stand against it. So used to leaning on the cone for support, the small bundle of grass couldn’t even stand under its own weight. Fortunately, the skies were overcast. If the sun was bearing down, the lower half of the soft, tender stalks were so pale that they surely would have been scorched by its rays.
Was I cruel for removing the cone from the long, tall tuft of grass? Well, it certainly would have been better for the grass if I had removed it weeks earlier – before the grass had become so dependent upon the cone for its own survival.
In a similar way parents must eventually cease to be excessively nurturing to their adolescent children. As young people approach adulthood, they must learn to make their own decisions, take on greater responsibility, face adversity, and stand on their own two feet. It does not benefit adolescent children if parents continue to shield them from all of life’s discomforts.
And what if God, our Heavenly Father, never moved us out of our comfort zone? What if God shielded us from every challenge and never allowed us to face adversity and responsibility? What if God never enrolled us in the school of hard knocks? Would we ever grow or become productive? I suspect we’d never go beyond infancy.
Before James Garfield became President, he had served as a Union major general in the Civil War. And before the war he had been a lay preacher and principal of Hiram College in Ohio.
During his tenure as principal, the father of one of the students visited him and asked if his son’s course of study could be accelerated. The father wanted his son to earn an academic degree in the quickest and easiest way possible. “I suppose we could expedite his education. But it all depends on what you want to make of your son. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years. When He wants to make a squash, He takes a couple of months.”
We are always seeking the easier, less painful and more expeditious ways of getting the job done. But when God works at developing you and making you into the person He created you to be, there are no shortcuts. He cannot shield you from the life-changing processes that must be both painful and prolonged.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” -Romans 5:2-5, NLT
Dear Father in heaven, so often I seek to escape life’s harshness and gravitate to my comfort zone. Please, take me by the hand and lead me on the path of progress and growth. Whatever it takes, O Lord, fashion and shape my life into the image of Your Son. Amen.