Like the Old Oak
Reluctantly, I made an appointment for an arborist to come inspect my favorite live oak.
My southern live oak. The oak I insisted on keeping when the house was built almost 30 years ago. The oak where my builder had to creatively curve the driveway around. The oak whose canopy gracefully hangs over my driveway.
Several years ago, I noticed her bark had separated from the trunk in a couple of places, but she kept producing new leaves and dropping them at the appropriate time. I kept a close watch for signs of failure to thrive.
Then two months ago, Hurricane Sally plummeted our area. While the oak only lost a few small limbs and chunks of bark, much to my dismay, a couple of weeks ago, she started dropping large sections of bark up the entire length of her trunk. Beneath the separating bark, there was a lighter brown color.
After researching on Google, I sadly came to the conclusion my live oak had Hypoxylon canker, which is a fatal diagnosis.
I pondered waiting to see if she’d hold on for a few more years. Realistically, I knew I was just delaying the inevitable. And, I knew that if I went ahead and had her taken down now, I could take advantage of the last FEMA vegetative debris run.
So, I called an arborist for an estimate to cut her down.
He walked around the tree, silent and stroking his long braided beard. I held my breath, waiting for his concurrence that, indeed, there was no hope for my tree.
He finally spoke. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with this ol’ tree. She’s just sheddin’ bark she don’t need.”
He took out a pocket knife, pulled off a piece of bark, and whittled a small chunk from the trunk. He rubbed the small piece between his fingers before he held it out for my inspection. “See here? The fibers of the inner bark are moist and pliable. She’s healthy.”
He walked around the base of the tree, kicking at an exposed root. “Yep, she’s got a strong root system and is gettin’ the nutrients she needs.”
I asked what was causing the bark to fall off.
He explained how the fibers within the tree trunk are woven. “The outer bark is dead bark that protects the inner bark. So with all the twistin’ and turnin’ from all these hurricanes and storms these last years, it’s just making the dead stuff fall off.”
He walked under the canopy and looked up, studying the branches. “She can use some healthy-cut pruning; kinda like a girl needin’ a good hair cut. ”
He patted the trunk. “Yeah, most tree cutters woulda taken one look at the exfoliatin’ trunk and deemed her a goner and made a mess of money off you. She may look ugly, but this ol’ tree has got a lot of life left in her.”
He gave me an estimate to do healthy-cut pruning. After he drove off, I stood in the shade of my oak, grateful she was healthy and thriving.
As I picked up some of her shedded bark, I realized there were spiritual lessons for me.
Like the old oak, I needed to “be shedding dead bark I don’t need.” I need to shed attitudes. Grudges. Fears. Bitterness. Haughtiness. Toxic relationships. Bad habits.
I need to take care of my inner bark so I remain pliable and healthy, useful for Kingdom work.
I need to maintain a strong root system by staying grounded in my faith and feeding on the Word of God.
I need to realize that when the Lord corrects, rebukes and refines, it’s just healthy-cut pruning and for my good and future growth.
If I am spiritually healthy, a storm may cause me to twist and turn, but I won’t break.
Judging a situation by appearance-only will quickly bring me to a wrong conclusion. I need to seek wise counsel and get all the facts. Otherwise, it could be costly.
Genuine beauty and worth is not found in external appearance.
I am thrilled that my southern live oak will continue to add charm and grace to my front yard, and hopefully, live for a hundred more years.
As a matter of fact, I am not going to complain when I have to rake all her leaves...well, maybe I won’t.
Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. ~ Colossians 2:6-7