When I was a freckled little five-year-old, there was an oak tree outside my bedroom window. I don’t know how big it actually was, but it was the tallest, strongest tree I’d ever seen. I used to talk to it, greeting it in the morning and sometimes hugging its rough trunk when I played outside. My arms didn’t even come close to reaching around it. It belonged to our neighbors, but in my heart it was “my” tree. Oaks have been my favorite tree ever since.
It is only in recent years that I’ve begun to understand that the symbol of the oak tree means much more to me. Today, its perseverance and resiliency speaks to a sore spot in my heart that aches from time to time.
As a child, I was “gifted” and was used to doing well at school and being praised for my creativity. My future was wide-open. The adults in my life told me I could be anything, and at different times, I thought I would be a great teacher, writer, mother, nurse, or missionary. I even went through stages where I was aiming to be an actor or an astronaut. There was no question in my mind that I would succeed; I just needed to choose what I wanted to succeed at. Now, at the ripe old age of almost 35 (go ahead, laugh), I wonder if I’m ever really going to be good at anything. I was a teacher nine years ago, but I struggled with many aspects of the job. I’m a mother to a vibrant eight-year-old, but motherhood is a roller-coaster ride, too. I’m making forays into writing, but I get frustrated with my lack of skill at this point. Here I am, smack dab in the middle of adulthood, and I often still feel like I have no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up.
Some time ago, while I wrestled through my usual battle between my expectations of myself and reality, I realized that my childhood tree still had something to show me. Oaks excel in strength and majesty, but they take decades to grow. When someone plants an acorn or an oak sapling, they are committing themselves to a lifetime of waiting.
Sometimes when the old insecurities creep up on me again, I go to my jewelry basket and put on the copper oak leaf pendant that my husband and daughter gave me. I am reminding myself to be patient. I may not be the tallest tree in my forest right now, but I have good roots, and I will grow strong in my own time. If I keep nurturing myself by growing in faith, love, and skill, I will grow into an oak that cannot be shaken.
“…according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21