As the early morning sun peeked through the curtains, I poured 5 gallons of sap into a large cast iron pot, turned the igniter to high, and eagerly anticipated the maple syrup I’d enjoy later that afternoon. Ryan and I recently discovered that we have about 15 maple trees on our property at Hope Farm, Luke’s future home, and our friends taught us how to tap them. We had heard that making syrup was a long, tedious process and while “long” is an appropriate description, I haven’t found it tedious at all! Most days, I’m giddy about “checking my trees” and leaving with 10+ gallons of sap to cook down into syrup the following day.
I finished my kitchen duties, poured myself a steaming cup of coffee & sat down to read my devotions. I opened the Bible and settled in before the house came alive with chaos & noise from 6 children who needed to get ready for school. I was reading through Daniel, Daniel 3 to be exact, a familiar story and one I’ve heard numerous times throughout my childhood in a Sunday school classroom or around the dinner table. A story of three brave men: Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
I paused and underlined seven times.
How often had I felt the heat increase at least 7 times before there was a breakthrough? When my son was diagnosed with a stroke in utero or my husband battled brain cancer for three years. Or when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant in the middle of chemo and radiation, or my current husband admitted a struggle with a lifelong addiction or as Lucas went through years of aggression due to puberty.
I’ve learned that the number 7 has an immense amount of significance in the Bible and in my life. In Biblical history, the number is drenched in meaning and represented completion, rest, and victory. There are numerous accounts related to these themes including: the completion of the seven major divisions of the Bible, the completion of creation which culminated in rest on the 7th day; every 7th year was set aside for God’s chosen people as a year of rest and jubilee, Joshua’s march around Jericho which resulted in victory on the 7th day, and, of course, King Neb increasing the heat seven times before deliverance arrived for his boys Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
My peaceful contemplation was interrupted as my children began to emerge from their rooms, looking for nourishment before their day began. I set my Bible aside, handed each a breakfast burrito, and hurried them out the door for school. Before I sat down at my desk to begin the day, I grabbed the thermometer and set the alarm to sound when the sap reached 212 degrees.
It would take about 6 hours to reach this number, and then, during the 7th hour, once it hit 212 it quickly began to increase – 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 – seven degrees to 219; the magic number of completion for maple syrup. It would reach 219 within a matter of moments, and if I wasn’t watching the progress very closely, the sap would burn, and I wouldn’t be able to pour the deliciously warm syrup into jars. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fruit of my labor.
Sometimes the heat must increase 7 times before something reaches completion.
Or before our rescue arrives.
And we must be patient because the fruit of our labor is enjoyed after completion.
2+2+3 = 7.
The heat has increased significantly since Lucas reached the age of 12, and it’s become difficult to be his primary caregiver now at 18 years old. His needs have, at times, surpassed my capacity, but the Lord has been faithful. He’s provided manna for the moment. Lucas will turn 19 this August, and I do believe that deliverance has arrived via the gift of Hope Farm which we are creating as his forever home, Lord willing
If you’re going through something unbelievably difficult and life-draining, hear me with this truth. Hold on with every ounce of your being, hold on to Him who is greater than he who is in the world, hold on to that last shred of faith in your soul no matter how unraveled or mangled or beat to crap it may seem, HOLD ON for goodness sake and for every other sake for you have absolutely no idea what’s around the bend. You have no idea what happens after the heat increases seven times and when you finally reach completion. You have no idea how the Lord will bless your life when the rescue arrives.
Just keep livin.