The start of a new year should be easy, I have had time to rest, relax and recharge the batteries, yet having been back at work just a couple of weeks I am already tired and weary! Nobody “did it to me”, it was the result of my choices, and the fact that life always has ups and downs. If I am realistic, maybe I have to admit that my chosen profession is always going to involve helping people with problems. However, while trying to make sense of all that and plan for the future, one of my colleague reminded me of a story I tell others… with the unspoken suggestion that I do not practice what I preach! Here is the story:
Larry the lumberjack is what they called him. He had just finished his degree in forest management; he knew all about trees and how to cut them down. OK, maybe he had never actually cut a tree down but he did work out in the gym and strong and fit and his lifetime dream was to be a lumberjack. He saved up and bought the finest, sharpest axe available and told everybody that his goal in life was to be the best wood cutter ever! Finally he got his chance to prove it.
Larry arrived at the wood cutter’s camp and immediately reported to the foreman and asked what the current record was for one man cutting down trees in a day. The old, wise foreman suggested that he shouldn’t worry about that for a while, the best way was to join a team and learn the ropes first. But he wouldn’t listen, he wanted to prove that he was the best! The boss told him that for the record he needed to cut down 10 trees in one day.
The very next day he set out with the goal to cut down 10 trees. He started strongly, and proved to his colleagues that he had learnt a few things about cutting down trees. With just a bit more practice he would get faster. By lunchtime he was on track to get the record with five down already. Yet by the end of the day he could only manage eight and a half trees. He was devastated! The old hands congratulated him on his achievement, but he felt like a failure! But he resolved that tomorrow he would try harder.
On his second day he decided he could do without morning and afternoon tea and only take a short lunch, but by the end of the day he had only felled five trees. He started to complain that the trees assigned to him were bigger than the average, and tougher than the ones he cut down yesterday. He knew he could do better, it wasn’t his fault… give me one more chance and I know I can do it!
On the third morning he got up before everyone else, and started cutting his trees. He had no morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea and dragged himself back to base when it was almost dark. The other lumberjacks gathered around, surely he made the record today, he has been working so hard and so long… but he had only cut down three trees! He was devastated! Then the wise old lumberjack took him aside, and asked, “in all that activity, all that hard work, in all that time did you stop to sharpen the axe?”
Ouch! What about you, in all your activity, have you made time to sharpen your axe?
Chaplain Ian S Whitley