Maturing Like Oaks

A lesson from an old oak.

I was at a Come Away retreat put on by the Leadership Institute a few months ago, and Alan Fadling directed us to Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
(Isaiah 61:1–3 NIV11)

During our 4 hours of solitude on the campus of the Center for Spiritual Development in Orange County, I thought about what it meant to become oaks of righteousness. As I was wandering around the Center grounds, I came upon a young oak planted by the nuns at the convent.

“Twiggy” – a young oak tree at Center for Spiritual Development.

This was a great image to help understand what Isaiah was talking about. This oak had been there for years, and was pretty strong, but was not yet mature. It was then that I noticed a preserved cross-section sitting behind this tree…

Old oak displayed at the center.

Sign next to the old oak.

Notice that the sign says this cross-section is only a “branch” of this 114 year-old oak tree. That’s one BIG tree… and old too! I hear that some oaks can live for more than 200 years. That could mean that “the Old Oak” here was only about mid-life!

This tree got me thinking… It takes a LONG time to mature. If God is making us into Oaks of Righteousness, it is going to take a while. Often I feel the need to be mature and complete now. I mean, who likes to be young and immature? I’m thinking the author(s) of Isaiah had pretty divine insight into using oak trees as an image of God’s completed people. If oaks can take 200 years to mature, then I’m definitely more like “Twiggy” than “the Old Oak”. Perhaps instead of becoming impatient that I’m not as wise and mature as I’d like to be, I should nestle in and enjoy the journey ahead.

size of the Old Oak’s branch compared to my hand!

Growing into an old oak is going to take a long time.

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