I played basketball in high school.
I remember walking into the gym the summer after I had graduated. There was always open gym during the summer and I wanted to keep playing as I prepared to go to college. As I walked in a couple of my former teammates who were about to become seniors saw me and smiled and said, “Here comes the burnt wood.” Burnt wood is what we called guys who had graduated. They were used up and couldn’t help the team anymore. I had become like the wood in my fire pit that is so used up it can no longer be used to build a fire.
I remember sitting with my good friend Tom Randall on a curb outside of the city of Baguio in the Philippines. He was suffering from toxic poisoning and knew his time as a missionary to the Philippines was coming to a close one way or another. He was trying to decide whether he should stay, knowing that he would become sicker and sicker until he would literally be buried right there in the country he had come to love and call home, or head back the United States and try to find some other way to serve the Lord.
Tom was made to be a missionary and he knew it. He couldn’t imagine doing anything else and that scared him. He turned to me and said, “But what would I do back in the States? What could I do?” I looked at him and said, “Honestly I don’t know. If you stay here you are not going to be alive much longer. You’re going to have to trust God that he has something for you.” I was trying to tell him he wasn’t burnt wood even though that’s exactly how he felt.
He ended up coming back to the States to get healthy. While he was recuperating, he received a call from a Hall of Fame golfer named Larry Nelson. That phone call resulted in my basketball loving missionary friend becoming the chaplain of the Champions Tour for nearly 15 years. Yesterday he officiated at the funeral of his friend Bruce Lietzke who Tom led to Jesus during those 15 years.
I don’t know what might make you feel like burnt wood. You might have recently retired, or your last child moved out, or you’ve gone through a messy divorce, or your life in one way or another seems like it will never be the same.
This is the truth: there is no burnt wood in the forest of the King. Even after you breathe your last breath here on earth you will be greener and leafier and more full of life than ever.
Be encouraged. God is not done with you. Not now, not ever.