A meditation on:
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God ... emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross!
I am supposed to be strong, for you. Strong, like this oak. He stands so tall. He doesn't slouch. His bark patterns up and down, all around, impenetrable. The storm wind sways his upper reaches, but his roots do not shift.
Strength, they say, protects like oak bark. Strength, they say, fights behind the hard-wood-iron of impenetrability. Don't show your cry. Don't show your cracks. Don't show your rot.
I am lost in a forest of people-oaks; made ugly by the lie of strength.
I need to see this forest, beyond the trees. And so I climb this oak here, toward something I see way up high. It looks like light.
The bark splinters, the pitch wearies, but something happens to me as I ascend. I start seeing branches, with their little limbs shooting out into the air. They surround me. I rest on this one here, and look up.
It is light that I see. It hits the thin fronds. They change in the shine. They turn from somber in the shadows to something unexpected.
They, altogether, become a vision. Each solitary leaf creates a composite scene of glowing suns. I look down and see how the dark grey bark vanishes into the explosion of light within the limbs. I tilt my head and see a spider's web caught between limbs. It bounces. The dew drops slide into one another and drip into the light. I fondle the acorns dangling in gentle grasp; now swinging, now falling, new life given from the heights. I sit within the explosion of sun; in the joy of morning air pushing softly to and fro.
So delicate are the wonders of limbs.
I am supposed to be strong, for you; for my wife, for my pixie daughters. I am to be this oak. And I am, but not in the way of impenetrable bark and strength of wood.
I am strong like this vision of light. It makes leaves see-through. It shines bark into the thrill of glory. It invites. It exposes. It gives.
I am strong, like this oak. My bark protects because my limbs dance in delight. My hard-wood-strength gives spider webs confidence to bounce. My height invites explosions of sun within my leaves.
I am strong, because I create space for the weak.
I am strong because life feels safe within my limbs.
I am strong because my growth does not depend on me.
I am strong because high up in the morning air, I sway, gentle and free.
I am strong because I am unafraid to show my burden for life and love.
Longing For More: A Daily Devotional Resource
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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.