The roar we heard as we stepped out of our car at midnight was not from the traffic on the A30. At that time of night vehicles were few and far between, especially when the weather was bad. Instead, we had driven into a westerly gale that had just hit Cornwall and Devon. The roar that we heard was made by the wind as it battered a row of tall trees that formed a windbreak for the Travelodge at Whiddon Down, where we were spending two nights to have easy access to Dartmoor and Torbay, before travelling into Cornwall.
The next morning the worst of the gale had abated slightly, starting its predicated path eastwards across country. We chose to keep to our usual plans of breakfast at Ullacombe farm café and the morning at Haytor. We had just ordered our breakfast when the cafe was plunged into gloom by a short-lived power cut. A leisurely breakfast enjoyed sitting next to a log fire, an hour catching up on emails and then the much-looked forward to short journey up onto the moors. We have visited the moors in all types of weather so a gale could not deter us.
The wind was still quite fierce on the moor, not a sheep, horse, cow or bird was to be seen. Only a few foolish human beings were daft enough to brave the elements, or so it seemed to me. We read for a while and then retraced our journey, 5 minutes to get to the cafe, then continue on the tree-lined narrow road eastwards to Bovey Tracey and from there to go to coastal bay of Torbay. Imagine our surprise to find that a tree had fallen across the road a few seconds from the farm cafe where we had breakfasted 2 hours earlier.
Was it the fallen tree that caused the brief power cut that we had experienced in the farm cafe just after we had ordered our breakfast? If it had been then the road was already passable. The only sign visible to us of the road block caused by this mature tree coming down was the gap made by a chain saw to enable the removal of the middle section of the tree trunk that had lain across the road. The two exposed sections of the trunks were an eye-catching yellowy-orange colour; clearly etched rings, formed by its many years of growing to maturity, clearly visible. An upturned root system was on one side of the road and the spreading branches of its canopy on the other, leaving just enough room for vehicles to pass through. The following day, calm restored after the gale, the sheep, cows and horses were out on the moors and two days later, the branches of the fallen tree had been removed and the trunk sawn off much closer to the root. There had been no accidents caused by the fallen tree either to dwell on or to grieve over. The whole incident would be quickly forgotten.
There was not much point me dwelling on what might have happened if we had passed underneath that tree as it had fallen down. Some people could have gone into hysterics and others could have dwelt on all the morbid possibilities of what have might have been. It was just a relief that we had not ended up squashed underneath the tree trunk.
The above happened a week ago. It was a tragedy that didn’t happen. It reminds me of one that did. It happened over 2000 years ago and many people will ignore it but many others are so grateful that they will use this Easter to celebrate that tragedy. Celebrate, not because it was a tragedy but because of what God did through that awful first Easter of suffering and death. Jesus could have avoided the Cross and all that went with it – but he chose not to. He walked into tragedy so that the suffering and struggles in our lives need never be the final word.
We hear of awful things in this world. Awful things happened in Jesus’ world. That is why he said to his disciples, hours before his death, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).