The Just and the Unjust
By Tim Tron
It becomes obvious, as my mind reflects on what to write about this morning, that I have unintentionally surrounded myself in the comfort of rocky, and coarse elements from nature. Sitting in the Retreat and listening to the birds of the morning, my eye wanders to the things that are near. From the roughhewn lumber sawn at the local sawmill to the river rock that encompasses the fireplace in the Retreat, there is a sense of “raw” earth which exudes from this place. The trees were harvested from where the building now sits and were masterfully sawed by Tony Moretz. The rocks were provided by the Gragg family’s section of the John’s River. Through all the harvesting and collection, there was the journey of life and interaction with those that helped to obtain the resources to make it all possible, each one a story of their own. While the building is not the polished brass or pure, waxed floors of the highest cathedrals, the Retreat is a place of humble submission. In my heart, I like to think that it’s a place not far removed from God’s creation. Here, in this forest abode, there is a deeper connection with the One above, less of the man-made interferences we so often seek. It is in this vein that this story begins to unfold.
The scripture from Matthew struck a chord with me earlier this week, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”
A long time ago, in the other life, we were walking through an antique store in Cameron, NC. I overheard some folks cutting up and enjoying one another’s fellowship when they mentioned the scripture from Matthew. It had been a time during a lengthy drought. My pastures were dying, and the cattle were beginning to suffer. The garden had nearly all but dried up. It was during a time such as that when the comment struck a chord with me. One man said to the others, “You know the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust?” The others murmured their agreement, knowing where this was probably headed, when he continued, “I wish it would JUST rain.” At which point, the others joined in laughing and continuing to have a good time.
As the memories of that dry-spell comment rang in my head, the weather outside was still wet. It was the fourth day in a row of heavy downpours. It was obviously the opposite extreme to that faded memory. Yet, the words of the scripture echoed once more, “It rains on the just and the unjust.” It was then that I stopped and thought about the verse and what it meant to our times under the Quarantine-life of COVID-19. In this time, so many find that their lives have been centered on the things of this world. Their idols, albeit justified in their minds, however, they wish, from sports stars to music entertainers, had all been taken away. Now, in the vacuum, many find their lives empty, void of meaning. All along, they had been living a life of earthly treasures but hadn’t stopped to take notice until now. The suicide hotlines are flooded and reports of suicides during the last four weeks have equaled that of a year’s worth of deaths previously. Sadly, some preachers even go as far as to find wisdom in the data of the Corona Virus media reports instead of their Bibles. In so doing, they purposely prevent their parishioners from receiving the very thing that they need most; the Spiritual interactions of fellowship and worship; the very thing people need most at times like this. I could go on speaking of negativity, but the tragedy remains the same, many seek what can never bring them true happiness. The question came to mind, “Do I allow myself to be brought down by the long, cloudy days, or do I make the best of what I have?”
One such day last week fits the bill – pouring rain with dark overcast skies. Through the course of the day, as the hard, driving rain continued to fall outside, inside I continued to work from home at my new-found career. The position at App State is a blessing in and of itself, and in that, there is a testimony that can be shared. But, also, there were the peripheral things of the day that made it bright. That day’s evening meal was one of the comfort foods. Again, like those materials that comprise the structure of the Retreat, the food that brings a sigh to my spirit is that of good ‘ole’ country food. That evening the family and I sat down to a big pot of ham and beans, greens, and cornbread. For dessert, I had also baked oatmeal cookies from scratch. In a sense, I had returned to my roots; the things in life that make us who we are.
I was blessed in life to be raised by depression-era family members. Again, I could dwell on the negativity of my life, but to be able to look back and be thankful for the journey, regardless of how difficult or challenging it might have been, allows me the vision to look ahead with gratitude. Being reared by those who had little gave me the appreciation for those “roughhewn” things of life. While I’ve never had the “Best Things” of this world, I certainly have been blessed beyond measure in other things, those that mean the most, God and family. My faith is not polished and practiced of that of a seminary student, but rather that from which I have gleaned from the pages of the Word itself. Like those cornfields of my youth, when we would walk row after row behind the trailer being pulled by Grandpa’s tractor, gleaning missed cobs, I have studied the Bible for truth. It is in God’s word that one can find comfort and solace even in the lengthiest rain spell, or as now, the longest time of forced isolation known to our generation.
As a farmer, I can tell you that there is a breath of relief, a sigh of thanks that goes up when the rain begins to fall after the fields have been properly dressed with fertilizer when the rows of corn are safely in the ground. Through the replenishing of the earth’s moisture it as if the farmer’s soul is also renewed. As it says in the 23rd Psalm, “My cup runneth over,” is an expression best displayed by the overflow pipes of a farm pond and the satisfaction within the farmer’s heart. Yes, even when the rain falls, there is a sense of reward and comfort on the farm where others find dread and gloom. It is a mindset that many fails to notice in the modern world. A connection to nature, and our Creator, has been lost by so many in the pursuit to make life “better.”
Should we sit and dwell on wondering if we are the just or the unjust, or should we press onward as the Apostle Paul would say? In my heart, and my prayer for those in this world who are hurting is that we would seek to press on. To find God, to bring him close and to find beauty in even those things that matter little to the world. In the coming day, try to spend time with a friend or family member that you haven’t heard from in a while. Reach out to those who continue to find the need to self-quarantine. The worst thing we can do is to leave someone alone who might be feeling lost and hopeless when we ourselves have been blessed. Even if our own worlds are nothing but stones and roughhewn logs, we can still be a comfort to those around us if we choose to do so. It is up to each of us to be the light in a dark world.
While our blessings may be worthless by the world’s standards, they are priceless in the kingdom above.
Embrace love to thy neighbor and be thankful for the rain, just or unjust.
Thanks be to God.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Mt, 5:44-45
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE.