Lessons from a Barn, Part 2

The imminent collapse of my son’s barn became a reality this summer, but not in the way that any of us had anticipated. So let me finish the story I started in my last blog.

Initially, nine years ago, the leaning barn was more of an inconvenience than anything else. Although the allurement of the barn was hundreds of square feet of storage space, the reality was that anything beyond arm’s length inside the door was in danger of imminent flattening with the certain and expected collapse of the barn.

Over the last nine years granddaughters have grown up and a grandson has been added to the family and therein lies the problem. The barn contained boxes and piles and shelves and storage that tempted all to come in and experience the excitement of discovery. While the temptation was resistible for adults, the question was how long the grandchildren would be able to resist the allurement.

So the decision was made to assist in the imminent collapse of the barn. We were all certain, after nine years of visually measuring the increasing tilt of the barn, that little to no effort would be necessary to bring the barn down. So my son attached a cable to the driveway end of the barn and the cameras were readied to capture the historic event. The cable was attached to a four-wheeler and everyone stepped back. Anticipation filled the air. One good pull and nine years of anticipation would be brought to an end…we thought.

However, after one pull, came two and three and four and five more pulls. Then the cable was moved to the middle of the structure and repeated pulls brought with no visible results. The four-wheeler was replaced with a pickup truck and the routine was repeated.  Finally one of the timbers that formed the skeleton of the structure was ripped from the barn. We stood there in growing bewilderment…the removal of the rib had no visible effect!!!

As we stood there collectively wondering what the next step needed to be, we heard the barn murmur. At first there was just a creak, more like a sigh that had lingered within the structure for years that was finally released. As all heads turned to the barn in response to the creak, the barn let out a louder one. Then in one short, slow-motion shutter the barn collapsed.

About an hour later as my son and I salvaged barn boards off the fallen giant, we made an interesting discovery. While we had measured the immanence of the barn’s collapse by the weathered and aged outer shell of barn boards, we were unaware of the true condition of the timber skeleton of the structure. The removal of the barn boards did not reveal weathered and weakened timbers supporting our conclusion that the barn would imminently collapse.

What we discovered were timbers that had the same apparent color and texture as the day the structure was raised. The timbers were not weathered. They were not faded. They were not hollowed by insects or disease. They were strong and sturdy. Therein lies another lesson from the barn that I learned that day. In Deuteronomy 33, as Moses is blessing the tribes of Israel, he reminds them and us that “underneath are the everlasting arms” (v. 27).

Underneath any circumstances that we may be experiencing are the everlasting arms. Underneath any blessing that we may be enjoying are the everlasting arms. Underneath any success that we may be rejoicing in are the everlasting arms. We cannot judge life by the weathered shell. We must judge life by the skeletal timbers—underneath are the everlasting arms.

About Charles McLain
I am Chair and Professor of Old Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA.

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