I admire toughness. The right kind.”
–Jack Schaefer (Shane)
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
–Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)
One of my favorite books is Shane. Here is a man that just happened to show up (or did he?) to help a family in their struggles against nature and against the evil nature of man. There are many character lessons that can be learned from Shane. Was he a man running away from his past; or was he a man sent to the family and valley for a purpose? No matter, one of my favorite scenes from the book was the battle against the “stump.”
“When father worked on that old stump, that was worth seeing too. He could handle an axe mighty well and what impressed you was the strength and will of him making it behave and fight for him against the tough old wood. This was different. What impressed you as Shane found what he was up against and settled to it was the easy way the power in him poured smoothly into each stroke. The man and the axe seemed to be partners in the work. The blade would sink into the parallel grooves almost as if it knew itself what to do and the chips from between would come out in firm and thin little blocks.”
What a battle those two men had with that stump. Blow upon blow, hour upon hour, they worked to get that large, old stump out of the ground. Endurance, strength, tenacity, and downright old stubbornness was seen in their gigantic effort to remove the stump from its long-time resting place.
“Father grunted in exasperation. You could see the strength building up in his legs and broad shoulders and big corded arms. His side of the upturned stump rocked forward and Shane’s side moved back and the whole stump trembled like it would twist down and into the hole on them at a grotesque new angle…
I caught a glimpse of his [Shane’s] eyes. They were aflame with a concentrated cold fire. Not another separate discernible movement did he make. It was all of him, the whole man, pulsing in the one incredible surge of power. You could fairly feel the fierce energy suddenly burning in him, pouring through him in the single coordinated drive. His side of the stump rocked forward even with father’s and the whole mass of the stump tore loose from the last hold and toppled away to sprawl in ungainly defeat beyond them.”
Upon reading my devotion a couple days ago, this scene came immediately to my mind. The words from Scripture was finally beginning to make sense in my feeble, little mind.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
–Romans 8:26 (KJV)
The word “helpeth” in this verse is the Greek “sunantilambano”. This means “to take hold of something with someone else, gripping it together as tightly as possible, and throwing your combined weight against it to move it out of the way.” For years Joe Starrett had struggled with that stump. He would work on it and very little would happen. He would go away and another day return to his challenge to overcome and remove that stump. One day, Shane appears, and the two of them take hold of that stump working together and finally moving it out of the way. The same is true with the stumps in our life. This verse shows that the Holy Spirit becomes our partner in our endeavor against the “stump” in our life.
We have “infirmities”, we don’t have what it takes to get the job done by ourselves. However, the Holy Spirit begins to aid us, working with us to strengthen our weakness and help us overcome the obstacle.
This fits right in with the poem I have been using by Waddie Mitchell, “The Sum.” Here is the third stanza.
“Does the sum of what you could do
Equal up to what you done?
Have you had your own piece of the cake
Or, have you settled for the crumbs?
Have you reached your aspirations?
Have your races all been run?
Is the person you’d be proud to be
The person you’ve become?”