Squash or Oak?

“A student asked the president of his school whether he could not take a shorter course than the one prescribed. ‘Oh yes, replied the President, ‘but then it depends on what you want to be.  When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when he wants to make a squash, He takes six months.'”  A.H. Strong, quoted by Miles J. Stanford in The Green Letters

I don’t like to admit it to myself, but I have developed an appetite for quick, squash-like growth and progress.   I want excellent preparation and execution to always produce visible, lasting results and I want God to do the great things that I have dreamed up.  On top of that, I want these things now.  What is so attractive about the squash?  The squash-like growth gives me something to show to others, even if its not much.  (“Its a BIG squash, after all . . .”)  And if I can produce a lot of squash, what’s the harm in that?  But that misses Strong’s point.  I don’t produce squash I am the squash.

I ran across this passage a few years ago and it started to re-align my heart with what I believe God is really doing in my life:

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:3  (NLT)

God promises that he is doing something great in his people.  He is not producing spiritual squash, but “oaks of righteousness.”  This passage reignited a desire I had earlier in my walk with Jesus:  a desire to be an oak.  I wanted to be like the “live oaks” of our mission that I was being exposed to:  men like Tom Raley, John Miller, and Bob Mitchell.

But isn’t it just a little presumptuous, to aspire to such greatness?  I don’t believe it is.  Notice that God is the one who plants the oaks, and he plants them for his glory.  If I choose the path of the squash, I do it for my own glory, for the quick fruit that I can impress others with now.  If I choose the path of the oak, I am choosing to submit myself to the Lord’s purposes in everything, trusting that he will make me into something I could never become on my own.

One thing that I love about the image of the oak is the contrast between the beginning and the end of an oak tree.  Every mighty oak tree starts out as a small acorn.  If you didn’t know better, you would never associate the two.  But God uses acorns to produce oak trees, and he is in the process of taking you and me, who began as spiritually insignificant “acorns,” and transforming us into “oaks of righteousness.”  God’s glory will be displayed in us because we will be something that only God could have imagined.  Only the grace and love and blood of Jesus Christ could take who I was, and make me into a spiritual oak.  If he is pleased to do that in me, then I will be pleased to work with him to that end.

Do you desire to be an oak or a squash? How does it influence the way you see people, your circumstances, ministry, and God.

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