You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5 (NLT)
Jacob could hardly wait for the final school bell. Grandpa had promised to take the family to look for a Christmas tree tonight. Grandpa had a pickup so it would be easier to get the tree home. Besides, as strong as he was, he knew Mom and he needed help with this task.
Jacob’s older sister had lobbied long and hard for an artificial tree this year. She made the argument that it would save money in the long run because they wouldn’t have to buy a new tree every year. She showed his mom several trees that were easy to put up and take down and already had the lights pre-strung. She also argued that an artificial tree didn’t need to be watered and there wouldn’t be those sharp pine needles stuck in the carpet all the time.
Jacob did not want an artificial tree. He loved how he could smell the pine when he walked in the house during the Christmas season. He loved helping his dad get the lights strung just right around the tree. He loved being the one responsible for seeing that the tree was watered and the pine needles were picked up regularly. No counterfeit tree could substitute for the real thing.
Mom had agreed with him. She wanted the real thing, too. In fact, she had often talked about real versus counterfeit when they prayed for his dad. Dad had left shortly after last Christmas. He called regularly and Jacob often spent weekends at his new apartment across town. It was a nice place, but it wasn’t a real home.
Mom had told Jacob that the enemy often tries to make the counterfeit look like the real thing. If people aren’t careful, they can make some wrong choices and get caught by that trap. That’s what happened to Dad. The enemy closed Dad’s eyes to the real thing and made the counterfeit look more inviting. He had fallen into that trap and was now snared by his bad choices. That’s why they prayed every night that the Lord would open Dad’s spiritual eyes to see the truth; that the Lord would remove the veil of disguise that kept Dad in that counterfeit life.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. In this way two people become one. Genesis 2:24 (ERV)
His sister had argued that everybody had an artificial tree and that they were the only family she knew who was still dealing with the hassle and mess of a real tree. Mom had a good answer to that one, too. Just because everybody else was doing it, didn’t make it right. It was the same with his dad. Many of Dad’s friends, and even some of his own family, had bought into the lie that just because other people were doing it, it was OK for him, too.
Neither Jacob nor his mom were willing to settle for a counterfeit – either with the Christmas tree or with Dad. So Jacob regularly joined his mom in prayer that his dad would give up his counterfeit life, come home to Jesus, and come home to them. Jacob liked praying for his dad. He knew that the Lord was hearing their prayers and would answer when He had everything ready.
A few days later the tree was home, placed in the old tree stand with the holly painted on it. It had yet to be decorated. Jacob knew the lights had to go on before they could hang the ornaments and he knew it was his job alone this year. But something inside had told Jacob to wait. It just didn’t feel right to be stringing the lights alone.
That afternoon as Jacob stepped off the school bus, he could feel his heart stirring. Instead of the usual meandering with friends, Jacob ran the four blocks home as fast as he could. He stopped short at the end of his block. From there he could see his dad’s gray pickup sitting in the driveway. Jacob knew he had come to help him string the lights. And he also knew, somehow, that this was the beginning of the real thing.
“‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’” Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT)
A Stander in Nebraska