Thursday, October 7, 2021

Tire Swings, Sandboxes, and the Back Door of Heaven

My memory of the story likely comes from my mom's retelling. I was a little guy and I was traumatized, stuck in a tree. This wasn't just any tree, it was my favorite tree in the world. It was a Hickory tree and it dropped nuts all over my railroad truss, triangle shaped sand-box and my tire swing. My Dad had built these things for me and he had crafted both of them with his hands, improving on their design with his own ingenuity.

A typical tire swing simply hang with a rope tied around a discarded and worn tire. Dad's tire swing hung horizontal, creating a seat that could hold three people, supported by three ropes bolted into the tire, cinched into a single knot that was joined to the rope that was secured to the giant branch some 20 feet above the dirt ground.

Rather than a simple tire of sand, Dad had somehow gotten his hands on three railroad ties. These were the giant hewn pieces of wood that ran horizontal underneath the iron rails of the great American railroad. I suspect their acquisition had a tie to his employment with one our our nations great steel mills, Armco. 

The three ties were arranged in a triangle position, each about 6 feet in length, providing about 15.5 feet of surface area that was covered by fine sand, about 8 inches deep. My sandbox was a magical place that hosted countess galactic battles, die-cast car cities, and army man campaigns. Sometimes aliens invaded and and even monsters were defeated. The good guys won every single time.

And above it all... I managed to lose my grip while climbing that tree, and wedge my knee into the v-shaped juncture of the two main branches. I was a calm and independent little fella. I quietly began to work my leg back and forth so that I could free it. But it was hopeless... I was stuck.

Pride was defeated, the war was ended, the aliens, soldiers, and monsters had won... I was freaking out. I began to cry out for my mom, who was inside the house, about a basketball court's length away... although to my 5 year old perspective it was an absolutely insurmountable distance! Like the epic moment in a movie when hope appears over the horizon when all hope is lost... my mother suddenly came running out of the back door of the house.

All of my bravado immediately melted into gasped tears and shattered words as I began telling her to "call dad so he can get his chainsaw and cut me out!" I was convinced that my only salvation was the architect of this magic space. The man who had created me a tire-swing that lifted me off of the earth and a sandbox of limitless adventure, he was the only one who could save me.

And then there was only my mother's calm voice that took over my universe. She was consoling me, soothing me, telling me that everything was going to be ok. I was incoherent at first, continuing to insist that only my father and his chainsaw would save me... but she continued to talk and hold me. She calmed me. She held my wedged knee between the branches, and she lifted me free.

Unexpected liberation. No chainsaw. I clung to her with sobs of relief. She was the hero of the day. My entire world-view shifted. The creator that space was not my savior that day. But the one who saved me intimately knew me. Her rescue was perfect and beyond my comprehension. 

This has become a metaphor for my life. So many times there have been solutions in my own head that missed the mark. I was waiting for a chainsaw when the hero in the moment was already holding me, telling me to gently release my struggle. The rescue has already been arranged. It is not by my own struggle. It is not by my own intellect, imagination, or demand. My rescue is simply my yield. My surrender. My acceptance... to the help that has already been provided and has ran to me to provide my salvation.

Come unto me, all that are tired. That was the invitation to us all from a savior some 2000 years ago. The rescue of Jesus is enough. He too was stuck on a tree... a cross. Hanging there for us all. No-one came to rescue him. He died there. He died there to become the rescue for us all.

And he runs out the back door of Heaven, to hold you and to free you. He is the creator of this place of our imagination and our countless stories... He is the architect and He is the one to free us.

Hickory nuts, sandboxes, tire-swings, and heroes... my faith was built in those days. 

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