The burr oak is an amazing creation of God’s. If an acorn is buried by a squirrel in the fall and is not recovered the following spring, the acorn sends a root straight down five feet long that will anchor the tree for the rest of its life. Burr oaks grow slowly – about 12 inches a year. It takes 35 years before a young tree can grow its own acorns. That seems like a long time for a living thing to reproduce itself. But once a burr oak is established, it has the capacity to become one of the strongest, tallest and most durable trees on the planet that can live between 500 and 1,000 years.
Over the course of its lifetime each tree will face two great enemies: fire and drought. Burr oaks have exceptionally thick bark that provides protection from passing flames. They also have a dense root system that reaches deep into the soil for moisture.
Each human life is up against those same two enemies. Our lives will be tested by fire – crises that arrive with little warning will threaten to incinerate everything we hold dear. There will also be seasons in which we fail to receive the nourishment we need to thrive. Our ability to love, forgive, serve and simply put one foot in front of the other will begin to wither and die.
So how do burr oaks become such remarkable trees? It takes a long time to grow and to bear fruit, but the results are spectacular. Our hearts grow at the same pace. Slowly but surely we put down roots. We study and pray. Every day we make choices that help feed our souls.
We stop long enough to listen to someone else tell about their tough day (and not think about what we’re going to say next). We offer words of thanks for raindrops on thirsty lawns. We pause to acknowledge the hard work of the housekeeping team cleaning the bathrooms. We recall an old friend and ask God to bless them today. Those are the little things that nourish our hearts.
No wonder the Bible declares that those who build their lives around the work of the Spirit will be called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).
-Rev Dr William Lewis