How Does a Great Man Fall?
The Fallen Oak Branch by Achille Etna Michallon
We see in this painting a beautiful wooded scene. The greens used by the artist give us a sense of summer at its height. The sun is out and we can see it reflected from the rocks. The sun also highlights a large fallen oak branch that fills the center of the woods -- the center of this painting.
The branch's stump is huge indicating the size of the tree that it came from. The break is irregular as if ripped from the tree. The shriveled brown leaves indicate it's been dying and dead for awhile. No nourishment has reached them for some time. It's ugly, gnarled branches obscure our vision of a living, blooming forest. What happened?
How could a hardwood tree such as a stately Oak lose such a huge branch? The clear reason is that the branch gets separated from the life of the tree through a wound or natural disaster. The longer it is separated (even a little bit), the dryer it gets without the nourishment of sap. Gradually it becomes too heavy for the tree and tears off.
We may ask the same question in another way. How can a great man or woman fall? What causes someone to wither and die when they seemed so strong and invincible?
Jesus says that we were meant to "live (abide) in Him." Our lives are meant to stay nourished and healthy from the life of Christ's Spirit within us. Without this abiding in Christ, we soon become dry and life becomes hard. We find there is nothing within us that rises to all we face in life. We have lost our strength. We have lost our joy and soon our entire spiritual life becomes as dead as the Oak branch filling this picture. Jesus says branches like this are only good for one thing -- to be burned. Nothing constructive can be done with them. They only mar the beauty of the forest.
If your once vibrant and healthy spiritual life has become dry and lifeless then get back to the vine -- to Jesus Christ-- before you fall irretrievably to your death. Get back to where you can receive the life-giving sap. The Lord's plan for us is to bear much fruit. He wants to use us to bring life to a dying world. If we die with the world we are like useless branches -- good for nothing.