"...stretch out their hands..."
"If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven, forgive them, and help them." (I Kings 8:38-39)
Patti came upon this tree during a recent hike we were taking together and called me over to it. She said she thought it might make a good "Wednesday Wonderings." I guess after awhile I've managed to get some of you "wondering" along with me. Anyway, she was right, it is ripe for a "Wonderings." It looks like this tree was somehow bent over several years ago. Instead of breaking, it caught on one of its branches and used it as a support against the rocks. Then, the tree did exactly what it needed to do in order to survive. It stretched its limbs toward the sky to catch the sun. It was difficult for me to find the right angle to take the photo and do the tree justice. It bends up and down horizontally along the rock for about 40 feet and then dramatically turns vertical to join its branches in the canopy with its more vertically oriented neighbors. I don't know how the tree got into such difficulty and remained bent over. I do know that had it not found a way to stretch its limbs toward the sun, it most likely would have died.
The quote from the book of I Kings in the Old Testament is part of the dedication service of the Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. It became the residing place for God on earth. Solomon offered this prayer because he knew on that day of dedication the sun would not set before he and his people would have sinned again. For one reason or another they would hurt each other and God. The ways they could (and we can) hurt each other were and remain endless. Sometimes we find others and our own selves so bloodied and bruised physically, emotionally, and spiritually that it's difficult to determine how it all started in the first place. Like the bent over tree, we may not know or be able to explain how it all happened, but our need is the same. We have to find a way back to the source of life-giving hope that we require for healing and hope. For the tree, life was renewed by finding the sun. For us, renewal happens when we find our way back to God.
Solomon knew that God would respond to heartfelt repentance - not shallow confession, but heartfelt repentance. Jesus confirmed that with his presence and love. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to explain how we got "bent over" by unhealthy living (sin) that we miss or put-off the opportunity for healing. At some point in our healing it's helpful to know how we got "bent over" in order to avoid making decisions that might lead to future "bending." However, we don't have to be able to explain how we got "bent over" to reach for what we need to recover and be renewed - the forgiving grace of God.
I pray that when I find myself "bent over" I will remember to stretch out my hands toward God in heartfelt repentance, knowing I will be heard, forgiven, and renewed. How about you?
Blessings and Peace
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
Check out my new video, "Teens Surviving the Storm"
"...stretch out their hands..."