Lessons from the Bears: Lesson #1

LESSON # 1: Take the lemons life has given to you and make some lemonade.

When we purchased our home on Upper Bear Creek Road in Evergreen, Colorado, the real estate agent was careful to point out the magnificent Colorado blue spruce trees along the creek in our front yard. “This tree,” he bragged, “could well be the oldest and tallest tree in the county.” A couple of years later, however, I came home from a trip and looked up to the very tippy top of the tree and noticed that it was turning red. We summoned a tree doctor who gave us the sad news that our glorious tree was dying and there was nothing we could do to save it. 

While growing up I had been trained to “take what you have and make it into what you want . . . if life gives you lemons, make them into lemonade!” Life had just given us the largest dead blue spruce tree in the county. Now, what to do? I called Don Rutledge, the finest chain saw sculptor I knew, and invited him to my house. “Don, I want you to sculpt for me the most resplendent, 12 foot tall grizzly bear you can imagine. Don took it as a challenge and began studying the tree. “We will have to dismantle the tree from the top down because there is no room to fell the monstrous tree.”

“Alright,” I countered, “if you are going to take it down in sections, make the final section you cut just above the big bear, large enough to also sculpt a handsome bear cub.” The deal was made. But the following morning when Don arrived to work he almost reneged on the deal. “Yesterday, I didn’t fully realize just how tall this tree is . . . I have to climb clear to the top and I can hardly even see the top!”

After a couple of scary days the tree was down to workable size. We counted the rings and found that the tree that was going to become our prize bears was well over 450 years old.

While I watched Don engineer and manage his piece of art I was impressed with how confident and gentle he remained. He acted as if he loved that tree. He knew that inside that area of the yard he provisionally had everything he would ever need to sculpt the perfect bear. He was satisfied that he could take the “lemons” of a dead tree and fashion an object of beauty.

I knew that I needed to learn that lesson. There had been times in my life that I had been given lemons and I had fretted and thrashed around without the confidence that already I provisionally had everything I would ever need to fulfill God’s plan for my life. But, somewhere along the way I would always be faced with the final determining question, “What’cha gonna do with what’cha got?” What would I do with my sack of lemons? How Don handled his assignment would determine the outcome of the bears. What I determine to do with my “sack of lemons” will always determine the outcome of my life.