I confess – I didn’t see it coming, it took me by surprise and so I was unprepared and unable to protect myself. But then, an ambush by definition is an unforeseen event, it is a surprise attack. And surprised I was!
I was on my usual morning walk, minding my own business, lost in my own thoughts as usual. Now I am not one of those who wears earbuds and listens to music as I walk. I like to hear what’s going on around me, whether it be bird calls, the wind in the trees, lawn mowers or noisy car engines. (as you can see, my walks are a mixture of nature and civilization, coexisting side by side)
So today was no different than any other day. I was enjoying the cool stillness of this early fall morning, a cloudless blue sky and leaves just getting ready to burst into their fall colors. It was a peaceful morning. It was a perfect morning.
And then it hit me. By this I mean it literally hit me. And by it I mean an acorn. I did not see it coming. I did not hear it falling. I felt it’s impact as it hit my shoulder and bounced to the ground. I was stunned! How could something so little hurt so much?
The pain was short lived, but I am sure there will be a bruise. How could there not be? My first thought was thankfulness that the acorn had not hit my head. It had narrowly missed my head, grazing my ear and bouncing off my collar bone.
Of course, at the time of the ambush I was walking under an oak tree. I was literally walking over ground strewn with fallen acorns, which were crunching under my feet as I walked. That should have been my first clue or warning of impending danger. After all, how did I think all those acorns ended up on the ground anyway? I had entered into a dangerous stretch of terrain which should have included a sign with words something like this – “danger – entering falling nut zone – proceed at your own risk.”
But I entered in undaunted. Actually unaware would be more accurate. I was blissfully unaware of my precarious position until I was actually assaulted with said acorn. Why do I call this an ambush or an assault rather than a random act of nature and gravity acting in concert as they have always done?
Because there was a perpetrator. Yes, in that tree was a squirrel. That acorn didn’t fall. That acorn wasn’t pushed. That acorn was hurled at me, the innocent, unsuspecting walker. What had I ever done to that squirrel? I don’t think we had ever met before?
Now I didn’t actually see the squirrel do the hurling of which I accuse him. (or her) So how do I know the squirrel was the perpetrator of this acorn ambush which intruded upon the peace of my morning? Simple. The answer is physics.
That acorn hit me hard, with enough force to cause pain. Now acorns are pretty small but this one did fall from a considerable height. It was a very tall tree, which gives gravity more time to do its work. There is some physics formula I’m sure (which I can’t remember but I bet some of you know it well) which takes into account distance covered, weight of falling object, velocity, mass, rate of speed as it falls etc. which would predict the amount of force at impact of said object.
And I am telling you, based on my being the recipient of said force of said acorn upon said impact, that acorn did not randomly fall from that tree – it was hurled at me with whatever force a squirrel can muster. I do not wish to malign all squirrels as vicious and violent attackers of pedestrians, lest this post be construed as stereotyping or as hate speech against squirrels. Then all the squirrels will be out to get me.
So what can I do to protect myself in the future? I’m thinking maybe I need to start wearing a helmet on my morning walks. After all, that isn’t the only oak tree I pass under on my morning route. And maybe I should add shoulder pads while I’m at it? And maybe a disguise so the squirrel that is out to get me won’t recognize me. Or does this squirrel attack all pedestrians equally who dare to walk under his (her) tree?
This is my long time, familiar, regular morning route and I did not see this acorn ambush coming. It had never happened before and I was caught off guard and unprepared. (you’d think the squirrel could have at least given me a verbal warning beforehand, like golfers who yell “four”) Then I could have run for cover or at least covered my head.
But I had no warning. That’s what an ambush is. A surprise attack. Figures this should happen in 2020, the year of the ambush. COVID-19 ambushed us all earlier this year followed by the ambush of the riots, riots which have burned down our monuments, our memorials, our cities, our stores, our parks – all the places where we eat, shop, live and play.
How do we protect ourselves from things we do not see coming and have no control over? Not as simple as my putting on a helmet to protect me from further acorn ambushes. I’m thinking in times of ambush, attack, uncertainty, danger, change and fear it may not be so much about my head but about my feet. That’s right. My feet. Where are my feet? On what am I standing?
Yes, that’s the important question. On what am I standing? There’s a story Jesus told about this which I remember hearing as a child. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 7:24-27 this story,
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
We are certainly in a storm these days. Many storms actually. The COVID storm, political storms, literal hurricanes and floods, financial storms facing all those put out of work and business, losing their ability to provide shelter and food for their families. These are stormy times. We are all feeling battered and beaten down by the winds of these storms in our own lives. And where our feet are matters. Just as the foundations of our buildings determine their fate when the storms hit, the foundations of our faith determine our fate when life’s storms hit.
Jesus’s admonition for me to build on rock is relevant because we learn from God’s word that Jesus Himself is the rock. As a matter of fact, Jesus is The Rock. He is my firm foundation in the storm. King David explained it this way so many years ago in Psalm 62:6-8,
“He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”
There are those times when the storm tide overtakes me and the storm winds are stronger than I am and I lose my footing on the rock. What then is to become of me? I have found these words of King David in Psalm 40:1-3 to prove true time after time in my life.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
It is my Heavenly Father who sets my feet safely on a firm foundation. He is that firm, unassailable eternal Rock, the sure foundation for my faith.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:2-3)
“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4)
I can’t know what future “ambushes” are waiting for me out there. I could wear a helmet twenty-four/seven, but it’s where my feet are that will determine my ability to withstand and to stand in the storm.
Heavenly Father, help me to build my life on the rock rather than on the shifting sand.
sincerely, Grace Day