A boy built himself a rope swing for a large tree in the field nearby. He had to work hard to convince his father to let him have the rope, for there were other plans for its use. Finally, his father relented when he offered to repay him for the rope by performing various chores he knew his father needed done.
He worked hard on the chores and with a sense of pride did the best he could for a time until his mind wandered. He had a vivid imagination full of vibrant ideas about all things mechanical. He believed that if he could just unlock the secrets of pulleys he could lift a car over his head or even a skyscraper one day. He imagined crowds of people watching as he effortlessly lifted a car off of an injured person while rescue workers stood by with mouths hanging open in wonder. Then maybe his father would see the value in his daydreams.
After coming up with the idea of combining the pulley with a swing in his mind, the boy drew up plans. He was certain of the design, and for once did not tell his plans to his best friend. It would be a surprise that he would show his friend after it was all complete. No one would believe the height the swing would achieve and maintain without any effort. This would show people that he was smart, he was going places, he was worth believing in. After that, maybe his friend would listen a little closer and maybe other kids would want to know his secret.
Not long after, the boy had the rope and had successfully installed the swing on the pulley he had already placed in the tree. His father had checked on him once and pointed out the flaw in using the higher limbs that were not as strong. This meant the swing wouldn’t have quite as much height, but he knew his father was probably right. It wouldn’t do his plans justice to have someone fall if the limb broke. Hours later the pulley and the rope were in place, but it was too dark to try it out. He decided to show his friend the surprise first thing tomorrow.
His friend looked suspicious at the big grin on his face the next morning when he told him he had something to show him. When they arrived at the tree, the boy found his father waiting for him there, but not saying much. He proudly showed his friend the swing and smiled at his enthusiastic response. Yes, he could be the first to try it out, he told him. His father stepped in and insisted that he must first test the swing out for safety. He pointed out that he should really test the swing first before anyone used it.
Proud to have an audience, the boy nodded to the part about being the first to try the swing and readily agreed. There was no need to test the swing, for he had tested the pulley several times before it got too dark. He knew it would work and he was thrilled to show his father and his best friend his invention. He hopped on and whooped loudly as he sailed into the air and then back toward the tree, up until he was knocked into the opposing limb and fell off. His father was there quickly, rushing him to the hospital for the obviously broken collar bone. Through the pain, the boy decided his father must have known it would happen and chose to let him fall.
It took years after the boy was a man for him to finally bring up the rope swing to his father. Years of hurt and betrayal were built on that event, for he assumed his father knew what would happen; that he wanted him to be hurt because he did nothing to stop it. His father explained that he knew his son would use the swing whether he was there or not. He had noticed the limb, which was why he had suggested the test run first. When his son jumped on the swing instead, his father stood by – ready to help.
—————Thoughts that motivated this story—————
In this story I reflected on painful questions and stumbling blocks.
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
In Matthew 4:14 we see another mention of Jesus fulfilling something from old scripture. Isaiah (Esaias) chapter 8 sets the stage for the quoted verses. In reviewing chapter 8 I noticed it is filled with warnings to the Jews in ways that sound almost like a horror movie, intended to keep the audience on edge. I doubt it was with any smile that the devout Jews read these passages and remembered the horrors that followed years later. Just as with my own nation’s past; wars and tragedies are not and should not be mentioned lightly because of the great loss. Matthew’s chosen passage reminds of a dark past, a time when his Jewish ancestors could have chosen differently and avoided misery.
One part of Isaiah’s words in chapter 8 really stuck out to me; the mention of a “stumbling block, a rock of offense for both houses of Israel.” As we continue through Matthew I think we will see that Jesus is that rock and several times he tells people that. The rock of salvation was a difficult concept for me once as well. In this story I explored painful questions held back because there are times when I have wondered about God’s motives too. For example, it didn’t make sense that God created me but knew I would mess up, and so designed a rescue plan. If God is tender toward us, why not treat us like sheep and force us into safety? Instead, we are allowed to mess up and fall, every time believing we won’t.
Why create us and yet allow us to sin and allow us to be tempted? Why would God make us desire peace when all we do is fight even inside ourselves? These questions make me picture a rolling storm at sea and myself desperately kicking to stay above the waves. God chose to give us a rock to stand on but that meant we were no longer depending on our strength, we were in a sense giving up. God allows us to choose Him. It is easy to say the word grace, and it sounds nice to the ears. It is another thing to fall on grace like it is a rock that breaks our pride, admitting our best efforts are not good enough. Matthew dredged up old wounds and hard times and admittedly those are never easy to look at.