A walk beneath the oaks reminded me to take one day at a time

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trees humble me. This morning, it’s early and I am on the campus of our Methodist Campground on Saint Simon’s Island near Sidney Lanier’s “Marshes of Glynn.”

The winding roads of Epworth by the Sea are covered, literally, by the tops of large and mature live oak trees. The live oak is an amazing tree and the Spanish moss that hangs in abundance is probably older than I am.

Many of you might be familiar with The Big Oak in Thomasville. From boyhood, I have made an effort to drive by the Big Oak periodically just to be awed. It is estimated to be about 329 years old.

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This morning I did not see a tree that rivals the Big Oak in Thomasville, but there were many, many live oaks that were large enough to be 200-300 years old. That got me to thinking as I was walking.

I know this may sound crazy, but I wondered or just imagined that the trees could think. I thought that I might be “going off the deep end,” so I looked up that idiom. It can mean that I am in the process of going crazy. That’s probably not too long a walk.

Some of these trees under which I was walking have been here since before the United States were the original thirteen united states. In fact, the Methodist denomination’s founder, John Wesley, could very well have walked under these same live oaks or at least some just like them.

I don’t know if trees can think. I know they are born and they die. They thrive and they get sick. I know I sound like a “tree-hugger,” but trees are part of God’s creation; different from animals and certainly different from God’s crown of creation, humankind. If trees could think, what would they think about a walker among them on a Tuesday morning?

“There goes another of those things,” the trees might have thought. “I’ve seen them come and go. Some think they know everything, but this one seems to understand that he doesn’t. He’s right about that!”

I told my congregation this past Sunday that I was humbled by a verse of Scripture that I read in the Book of James. In chapter 4 of that Letter, we can be humbled by the unpredictability of our lives. We can make the most ambitious plans for the future, but, in reality, we should understand that “tomorrow may never be mine.”

The theme of the message was taking life one day at a time. The Book of James says that is the wisest of attitudes and explains a human life as lasting for a little while (a mist) and then “poof,” it vanishes. I was humbled as I thought of how little control I really have over my life.

Even in the best of situations, we might live a hundred years and have few travails. But, a hundred years to a live oak or a redwood is a little bit north of infancy. Imagine the challenges they have seen.

We like to think of ourselves as pretty smart and resilient and, as I mentioned earlier, the crown of God’s creation. We like to think that we are the best there is in the world. But, take a walk through a live oak forest or, if you can find one, a virgin longleaf pine forest. Stand next to the bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains, thought to be almost 5,000 years old.

It’s sort of like standing next to the ocean. Maybe we’re not the “cat’s meow” after all.