Isaiah 61: They will be Called Mighty Oaks

Thursday Themes is an ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @MamaMcAfee or leave a suggestion in the comments section.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...they will be called mighty oaks,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor...

Today we're wrapping up our series on the anoinments of Isaiah 61. I can think of no better way to sum it up than with Isaiah's own summing up: They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

They.

Those who are poor.

Those who are brokenhearted.

Those who are captives.

Those who are imprisoned in darkness.

Those who long for the year of God's favor.

Those who mourn.

They will be called mighty oaks. They will be planted by the Lord. They will be the display of his splendor.

***

One of my all time favorite children's books is Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Probably Silverstein's most notable and most loved work, The Giving Tree is the story of a small boy and the tree who loves him. The tree shows his love by giving of her fruits and allowing the boy to climb and swing in her branches and shading him from the hot sun.

Overtime as the boy grows, he visits the tree less and less. And the tree misses the boy he loves.

For those of us who've been in church circles for a long time, we have probably heard someone preach a giving tree preach--I've in fact given one myself. It usually goes something like this:

We're the little boy, young and innocent in our faith. The tree is a loving and giving God. We, the little boy, get distracted by life and growing up and spend more and more time growing and doing churchy things without being with God, the tree, without spending time in relationship with him. Then hopefully, we the little boy now the old man, grow wise in our faith and return to God, the tree, to sit on his stump and be content.

It's not a bad metaphor, but as I myself grow older and a little bit wiser, I recognize it is a weak metaphor.

I can no longer picture a loving and giving God who quietly pines and gives while we fall in love with other things and spin our wheels chasing the less important. And I have a harder time identifying with the little boy these days, as well.

I've definitely been that boy, wildly and innocently in love with a God far bigger and far grander than my imagination could imagine. And I've been the little boy distracted and forgetful of my loving, giving tree. And I hope I've been the boy old man returning to the tree who loves him.

But I'm wondering if the better metaphor might be us, the giving tree.

Us giving and loving even when the giving and loving is not returned. Us giving and loving even when we think we can't possibly have more to give. Us giving and loving so much we'll give our fruit and our leaves and our branches and our trunk and even our very last.

And as we, the giving tree, give and love, then maybe God, the sun and the rain and the soil, gives to us what we need to be able to give. Maybe God gives us the sunlight and the water and the nutrients to make us grow strong and tall so we might continue to give and love and to give and love again.

Maybe he made us to be mighty oaks, a planting of his splendor.

***

This week I had a, umm, let's call it a point of contention. I had a point of contention with one of my colleagues.

This person did something I found to be inappropriate. After cooling down, I confronted the person on it. Trying to be careful not to attack. Trying to be careful to be loving and gentle in my approach. And I think I did a pretty good job of this, but my colleage did not receive my criticism well, again attacking in the same manor that had caused the point of contention in the first place.

I was disappointed and frustrated walking out of their office.

I fantasized about stapling something to the person's head, probably a note saying, "Will you please get over yourself and have a respectful conversation with me?"

I boiled. I sat and boiled. And spewed a bit as I boiled.

Waking the next morning and curling into my reading chair, I prayed and I journaled, still boiling. I asked God to help me love this person and to teach me how to love them even when I want to staple things to their head. I asked God to help me stop boiling and to let go of my ire. I said what I needed to say. I did it respectfully and tried to do it lovingly. If the other person did not receive it well, that is outside of my control. Nothing to do, but to keep loving and keep giving and to turn the proverbial other cheek.

Keep loving and giving. Be a mighty oak. Be a display of his splendor.

I'm recognizing it's not easy to be a mighty oak. It's not easy to keep loving and giving when all you want to do is staple things to people's heads. It's not easy to be the poor or the brokenhearted or the captive or the prisoner of darkness or the waiting or the mourner. It's not easy to choose to live differently when the world would have marched to their supervisor and complained or found an alternative vengenance. It's not easy to be the giving tree.

But it is God who made me the mighty oak. It is God who is the strength of the oak.

I hope more and more I am the mighty oak God has created me to be. I hope more and more I am the display of his splendor and not my own splendor. I hope more and more to be loving and giving and a bit more Christ-like in my everyday.

It's not easy, but I think it's the better way.

____________________

 

Like today's post? Read other posts in this series:

Proclaiming Good News to the Poor

Binding Up the Brokenhearted

Proclaiming Freedom for the Captives

Release from Darkness for the Prisoners

The Year of the Lord's Favor

To Comfort All Who Mourn