I've shared two life lessons from our treehouse thus far:
Finally, let's consider three more lessons on this topic:
3. TRUST YOUR FATHER.
Believe it or not, for the first three years, I could not get any of the boys to slide down the fireman's pole attached to the treehouse. They would always climb back down the rope ladder when they were done playing. Admittedly, it is a bit intimidating the first time you grab on and commit to sliding down 13 feet to the ground. I encouraged them every year to try it and explained and demonstrated the basic technique multiple times: Place both hands firmly on the pole and then "hop on" (wrapping both legs around it) and slowly slide down using a hand-over-hand technique. I can't count how many times one of them would stand with two hands on the pole and their feet firmly planted on the treehouse floor as if grounded in concrete, trying to get up the nerve! I always stood at the base of the pole, looking up with words of encouragement. Finally, last year, Abel got up enough courage to try it. I told him that I'd be there at the bottom to catch him if he slipped or fell. Truth be told, I'm not sure how well I could have caught him had he fallen from the top, but I would have done my best to break his fall! Thankfully, his first trip down went perfectly and he loved it. He finally pulled his feet off the floor and wrapped them around the pole and slowly descended to me at the bottom to embrace him. He went up and down many times that day and his brothers, who still didn't have the nerve, were envious of the new skill and the ice cream I bought him to celebrate.
I wish Abel would have trusted me, his father, earlier. But, he let his fear rule him for quite a while. Christians sometimes do that in life. They possess a level of trust in God and the promises of His word, but they are weak and allow fear to dominate them. Consequently, they end up living their lives more "by sight" and less "by faith" (cf. II Cor. 5:7). It's hard to break free from old habits and fears, but we must in Christ! We must trust and obey our heavenly Father in all things. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7). We have every reason to trust God, our Creator, Sustainer, & Savior. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones" (Prov. 3:5-8).
4. COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS.
After Abel's success, the other brothers were emboldened. Just this year Amos, who is 5 years old, finally went down the pole. Abram, who is 7 years old, had been so close to going down for so long. Immediately after his little brother conquered the pole, he had to do it--and he did! Sometimes courage is contagious.
I remember the Old Testament account of David & Goliath in I Samuel 17. The Israelite army was terrified of the giant. They allowed him to ridicule and intimidate them for about six weeks before a young man (David) had courage enough to take him on and defeat him with the Lord's help. After David cut off Goliath's head, the Philistines fled in fear and "the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines" (I Sam. 17:52). What really had changed, friends? Courage--it is contagious. Jesus' church today should assemble to worship and, just as importantly, to "consider one another in order to stir up love and good works" (Heb. 10:24). We should build one another up and inspire courageous living for Christ!
5. EVERYONE IS JUST VISITING.
As nice as the treehouse is, it's really not a suitable home. It's a great place to play and visit for an afternoon and not even too bad for an occasional sleepover, but it's not a permanent residence and it is not intended to be. And so it is with planet Earth and our physical bodies. Consider Paul's words in II Corinthians 4:16-5:8:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."
These physical bodies of ours, no matter how beautiful or strong, are decaying. We will all die physically unless Jesus returns first. And the treehouse, although it still looks nice (in my opinion), it has aged. The cedar siding is graying and the roof is no longer water tight around the trunk openings. I had to repair part of the roof over a year ago where a large branch from a neighbor's tree fell upon it. What condition will the treehouse be in 5 or 10 years from now? Perhaps the changes will be small. Or maybe the tree will die and fall over, destroying the tree house. Maybe one of the supports will fail and I'll try to attempt to support it with stilts. Ultimately, I have no idea how long the house will last, just as I do not know how long I'll be on this planet. I'm a visitor, just like you. I need to remember this fact daily and live accordingly. As a father & husband, I have many responsibilities to tend to--of both a temporal and spiritual nature. I must stay focused on the goal and not get overwhelmed with the cares of this life. This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through! This bit of wisdom must be the guiding principle behind my decisions. Because I'm a pilgrim of sorts, I must set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth--and so must you (cf. Col. 3:2)!