Monday, November 6, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part II: Trunk

While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it. For last week's reflection on roots and the importance of a strong foundation, click here.

Lord, may my life demonstrate the splendor of a mighty oak for your glory. Enable me to be patient as you grow me. Keep my eyes, ears, and spirit attentive to your full purpose for my life.
When I was in high school, I went on a mission trip to do flood relief in Idaho. I remember staring at the mountains on a cold night with a star-filled sky. My favorite pair of jeans and a warm sweatshirt did little to comfort me. Talking with my youth pastor, I was overwhelmed with the need I saw in the world. Our group was making a difference; I wanted to keep doing that in real time and not be relegated to the sidelines with years of schooling ahead.
          My youth pastor had an interesting response. While I expected him to mimic my frustration and encourage an alternative plan, he talked about trees instead. He contrasted two kinds of trees: a sapling and an oak. A sapling, he said, is quick to shoot up. While it’s presence is known right away, it’s fragile and tender. It has limited resources to contribute in the moment with only a thin trunk. A mature oak, however, is slow growing. Its towering height is a testament to the roots, branches, and leaves it has produced one at a time. There are many uses for its substantial trunk, indicating that its maturation time was well spent.
          My youth pastor’s trunk imagery encouraged me to think strategically about my ministry from a long-term perspective for the first time. Having now served in churches and as a hospital chaplain, I continue to reflect upon its truth. I’m grateful that I indeed pursued my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While training and preparation can take a variety of forms dependent upon our respective callings, it inevitably opens doors. Whenever I’m tempted to feel impatient, I remind myself that the work of the kingdom of God often hinges upon slow, quiet growth. {Tweet that.} In the end, the thicker our trunk, the more facets we can serve, and the richer our canopies.

Next week's reflection on branches will concern risk-taking. Stay tuned for Part III of the prayer!

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