by Joel Bates
My son, Caleb, is well-acquainted with collecting and stacking firewood. Until recently, he had not graduated to splitting the logs, but he’s 13! I decided I should teach him the finer points of using a traditional splitting maul. Some folks—smart folks—use a hydraulic wood splitter to section their sawn logs into nice, usable shapes, but not me. I prefer my 8-lb., steel wedge that resembles a sledge hammer with an axe-like blade. I swing it over my head and bring it down forcefully against the cut face of the log causing the wood to explode. I like to think it takes a special person to split firewood this way, a rugged woodsman with brawny resolve, but mostly I’m just a cheapskate.
Caleb protested, “Dad, why don’t we have a wood splitter? My buddy Tommy’s dad has one.”
“Son,” I said, “there’s an art to splitting wood with a maul. It connects you to the ways of our ancestors, builds character in you, and makes you glad to be a man. Besides, why do I need a fancy, expensive wood splitter when I have you?”
Caleb frowned at my reasoning, but he picked up the maul, heaved it over his head, and brought it down on the upended log. The weighty axe bounced mutely off the middle of the wood and fell at his feet. “This will take forever!” he groaned.
“You’ve got the strength, but your technique is all wrong,” I coached. “Here, let me show you how.” He stood back, and I hefted the maul over my head, swung it up in a wide arch, and brought its full force powerfully down, making sure the head made direct contact with the center of the log and keeping the handle perpendicular to the point of contact. A crack formed. Sighting the handle along the newly formed fault-line, I repeated the actions to land the maul directly on the fissure point. Akin to the sound a strike makes in bowling, the log blew apart.
“Wow!” Caleb exclaimed. “Let me try.”
I gave the maul back to him and observed. After a while, his aim was dead on. As I watched him split log after log, I saw him become proficient in wielding the maul. I noticed how he began to hold the weapon correctly, swing it the right way, and bring it down on the same mark, blow after blow. Watching him, I suddenly felt a spiritual maul hit me upside the head. Our enemy, the devil, is a master of the “splitting maul!”
Satan loves to kill, steal, and destroy. He prowls around like a lion seeking to devour people, and he takes great delight in burrowing the heavy wedge of dissention among God’s children, severing relationships, alienating friends, and pounding fault lines throughout the bride of Christ. He loves splitting us apart like a talented woodsman drubbing hardwood. It makes him happy to see our nation torn in two like an oak log that gives way before the maul. He giggles when a church splits up. He bends over doubled in wicked glee when another couple files for divorce. And he swings that thing at me with great mastery!
I pondered this and wondered, “How can we escape the separation that comes from the blows of the enemy?” Here’s some ideas coming from a guy who’s flung the maul a few times:
We are cut from a great and glorious tree of life. More accurately, we are grafted into the tree called Christ. If you’re being struck by the enemy, hurting from the wrongs done to you, and feeling the cracks of disunity forming, implement the tactics listed above to see if they can help you be “unsplittable.”
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.