The Lucky Oak Tree

Following a recent school trip to the Botanic Gardens, our six-year-old son, Caleb, related his fascination for the "lucky oak" tree which stands in the gardens. This oak tree had been split in two by a bolt of lightning, yet was fortunate enough not to burn (apparently the lightning bolt had deflected from another tree). Following the storm the botanical staff had worked to bind the trunk of this not-insignificant tree together in order that it may be healed. Even as Caleb told the story, I too found myself amazed at the fortune of the tree.

But there was a deeper thought which struck me also: one which saw the tree as a metaphor for Christian ministry. In our daily lives we often encounter others who have been hit by lightning bolts which emerge from the blue: fluctuating family tensions, job stresses, financial difficulties, faith crises of different sorts. Torn in two by the force of the strike, these people are in need of those who would assist them in the process of healing, by offering the support and care which allows the internal processes of growth and healing to take place.

Yet, for all the times we see people in such circumstances, how often do we write it off with "they've had some bad luck", and leave them to their own devices? I can imagine the hard work of applying the necessary forces to the tree to move the two halves of the trunk back together. The risk of it breaking altogether. The threat of being overwhelmed by the task; of being out of our depth. There is a demand for constancy of support at which many of us baulk. We can find many excuses for not pitching in to support the torn, the hurting, the broken.

As I reflected on Caleb's story, the thought came to me: the call of God to His church is to be in the business of making "lucky oak" trees out of people's lives.

November 21, 1999
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