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An Old Oak

Empires come and empires go. We may not feel invincible ourselves, but we may believe that others are and dream of building a dynasty that nothing could collapse. Nothing and no one is invulnerable, but that is not to suggest that nothing is solid.

(Matthew 24:35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

 When I was a child, I believed that our house was the most solid reality in my life. I could not conceive of a time when it did not exit. I certainly could not imagine it ever ceasing to exist. It was so strong, so firm, and warm inside. It was a world unto itself, a place removed from the larger, more threatening environment. It was real.

There was an old oak tree in our back yard, majestic oak, reaching upward beyond any heights I believed I would ever scale. To be as tall as that oak, or at least to sit in its highest branches and look out over creation would have been the grandest of human elevations. When I lay on my back under the summer night sky, gazing into the stars, it was in the shadow of our old oak tree which I believed had much in common with those distant stars.

My house and my oak were sources of strength in my young life until one day the neighbor's house was struck by lightening and burned. Later, our Governor's daughter was struck by lightening on the beach and killed. That year, I watched my father build a room in the attic and with fascination and disappointment I came to know that houses were built with hands and were thus, somewhat artificial, and profoundly vulnerable to forces like lightening, as were people.

But the oak continued to shade us in the summer and shield us in the winter. It was the mightiest oak on our avenue. One day, the old oak was struck by lightening also. It too was vulnerable to the forces of nature. One of its most noble branches was severed and fell upon our house. Concerned that the old tree might give way in another storm and destroy our house, my parents made plans for its removal. That oak had been there long before us and had reigned over the neighborhood before it was a neighborhood. But now It was old and had grown too tall and brittle.

I learned some lessons about transience and permanence through that old tree. Nothing of this earth is permanent. All stability and strength are in God alone. Jesus was a mighty oak and they chopped Him down, but He stood up again, alive and thriving. His words last; His promises endure; His truth prevails. Nothing can silence Him. He is the temple that was destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He is the Word and He is the only permanence in a transient world.

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