“they may be called oaks of righteousness.” –Isaiah 61:3
I was born and raised in one of the most beautiful states in our union: Kentucky. With lakes, rivers, mountains, caves, and rolling hills, the Bluegrass State is unsurpassed in its natural beauty. However, upon moving to Louisiana nearly three years ago, I was introduced to something that isn’t native to my home state. It wasn’t the swamp or the bayou or the miles of coastland. It was the live oak. The first time I saw a gigantic live oak in person it looked like something from another planet. Its massive branches dipped all the way to the ground, as if it had arms and was ready to walk like something from The Lord of the Rings. The Spanish moss hung from its foliage like a well-earned beard after years of staving off hurricanes. In Kentucky we have pin oaks and white oaks and red oaks and black oaks, but no live oaks. They’re as majestic as they are enduring, and the more I stare in amazement, the more I begin to see similarities between the live oak and the Christian. The following are three ways we should look at live oaks, as they declare the glory of God in paralleling the Christian life.
- The Christian Is Built to Survive the Storm.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Due to the live oak’s relatively short height and low-hanging branches, it’s perfect to weather the tempestuous Louisiana rainy season. With a wide root base, the live oak (or Quercus virginiana) is a model for stability. Its thick and seemingly immovable branches find their support in its sturdy trunk. Antebellum homes and historic sites have preserved these prehistoric monsters in time, seeking to capture their natural beauty and their awe-inspiring longevity. While other trees may appear like twigs in the middle of a Louisiana hurricane, the live oak is built to last. The Christian is also tasked with persevering through suffering. (James 1:12) The only way to remain steadfast through the storms of life is by doing exactly what the branches of the live oak have done for millennia: tapping into the vine. As any Louisianan knows, it’s not if the storms will come; it’s when. The Christian doesn’t stand on his own; he or she is rooted in a firm foundation. (1 Pet. 2:4,5)
- The Christian Bears Fruit In Season and Out of Season.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:19-20
There’s no more beautiful place to experience the Fall Season than in the great state of Kentucky. The deciduous trees that offered such lush green in the summer begin turning into crisp shades of gold, yellow, red, and brown. But a Louisiana winter is still green when most states are dormant, in large part to the enduring color of the live oak. In fact, the live oak got its name largely because it remains “live” when most other trees are leafless. In the heart of winter, the live oak is still teeming with life, playing host to a number of birds and other creatures. The live oak never sheds its green. As a result, it’s a consistent piece of the Southern landscape, in season and out. Christians are also asked to “bear fruit” in keeping with repentance, otherwise, as John the Baptist warned, the ax is already laid to the roots. “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:10) Many churchgoers will exhibit godliness only when it’s convenient or expedient to do so, but the Christian endures in doing good. He is, after all, created for good works. (Eph. 2:10) Christians preach the word in season and out of season. (2 Tim. 4:2) Like the mighty live oak, a follower of Christ remains in bloom because he or she is determined to let their deeds shine forth the glory of the Creator. (Matt. 5:16)
- The Christian Gathers Wisdom and Beauty With Age
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
The beauty of a live oak actually runs counter to the contemporary definition of beauty: the older a live oak, the more beautiful it becomes. The bigger it gets, the more squirrels that run across its broad branches and the more birds that nest in its thick foliage. And yet, even the live oak began as just a little seed. But it kept growing in good soil. It was watered. It basked in the rays of the sun. And it grew into a natural masterpiece. The Christian is much the same way. Every believer begins with just a mustard seed of faith; but with constant food in the Word of God and steady discipleship, a new Christian grows in the image of Christ and learns to feed others. (2 Tim. 2:2) The Spanish moss only accumulates more upon the centuries-old live oak, and yet it only adds to the beauty of the tree. Like an older Christian, its gray is a crown of glory. (Prov. 16:31)