Tuesday, August 25

Ever lose your ax head?

2 Kings 6: 1-6

One day the group of prophets came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, this place where we meet with you is too small. Let’s go down to the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs. There we can build a new place for us to meet.”

”All right,” he told them, “go ahead.”

“Please come with us,” someone suggested.

“I will,” he said.

So he went with them. When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees. But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river.

“Oh, sir!” he cried. “It was a borrowed ax!”

“Where did it fall?” the man of God asked.

When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. Then the ax head floated to the surface.

“Grab it,” Elisha said. And the man reached out and grabbed it.

As a missionary working with tools, I can think of many times my ax head flew off the stick and hit the water with a big bloopy plunk.

Once, during a hot day in the Tabernas desert shooting a scene for “Anthony,” I was prepping an area that had a large date palm leaf hanging low enough to obstruct the camera. I ran up to the spiny branch armed with my machete, which I had just purchased for such an occasion. Knowing the entire crew was watching and waiting on me, a grabbed the leaf and quickly started hacking at the root.

WhackWhackWhackWhack. Nothing. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Nada. “Is that just a prop machete you picked up by mistake?” someone shouted. I whacked harder to drown out the comments. After ten minutes of chopping into this healthy green branch the size of my wrist, I was able to amputate that stubborn desert plant.

However, something else was happening during those ten minutes. I had buried my father two weeks prior. I was now running from location to location alone on a different continent with wagon loads of pottery, canvas shelter halves, wooden poles, woven mats, rugs, etc… in the desert heat trying to stay ahead of the camera crew so they could walk into the next location and find another complete “desert father” set. I was unaware of just how physically and emotionally exhausted I had become. So, when I was halfway into date palm chopping, I started seeing red. That rage crescendo became my fuel and strength. With a final WHACK, I ripped the date palm branch down. Eyes were upon me.

An unwise colleague standing a bit close cocked his head and asked me “did you even sharpen that thing?” I looked at his wrist. “About the size of that date palm branch,” I thought to myself, preparing to fly off the handle.

Deuteronomy 19: 4-6

Now this is the case of the man-slayer who may flee there and live: when he kills his friend unintentionally, not hating him previously—as when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand swings the ax to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the handle and strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live; otherwise the avenger of blood might pursue the man-slayer in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, because the way is long, and take his life, though he was not deserving of death since he had not hated him previously.

Realizing I had lost my (ax) head, and man-slaying was not an option, I was still somehow able to hand my colleague the very sharp tool–handle first–and turn back into the desert to see if God could fix me.

The river Jordan is a locus of spirituality. The ax head is an ancient symbol of judgment. The prophet Elisha threw a wooden branch into that river, showing that the Cross would remove the judgment from the flowing river of grace.

So, did God fix me, this weak missionary tool? He is. Everyday.