Nestled back among the creek bed stood the tall oak, just a stone’s throw from my childhood home. The tree bore my initials, carved into it’s flesh by the small red pocketknife gifted to me as a young boy by an aged mentor. My tree. My oak.

That tree bore a special significance to my life. It was the place I turned to when I needed to think. I would climb the seemingly insurmountable distance between the ground and the first bough, and I would snuggle against the trunk. Just a boy sitting ever watchful over his woods.

It was the place of “the club”, where my few childhood friends would gather in the warm weather, where we stashed our Nerf guns and water balloons. War would be waged, the innocence of youth remaining ever present. I would sit in my spot, and friends would join me. The strength of the bough never wavered.

Over the years, as life got harder, words got harsher and darkness threatened to snuff out the light… the mighty oak remained. Always present, always welcoming. It was my constant in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. My tree. My oak.

***

One summer day, the weatherman declared the treat of a severe storm—funnel clouds and tornadoes possible—one that eventually came. Home with just my little brother, we vacated when the hail dropped from the sky and the sirens blared through the wind. Running through the field toward shelter, with people beckoning us to run faster, the dark gray swirling cloud above us loomed. This would be it, I feared.

As it turns out, the cloud never touched down. No tornado for our small town. However, the winds that accompanied the storm were more than enough for my oak to handle. My tall oak, no longer tall.

Climbing down the slope that led me to my tree, I saw the carnage. It had split and the top half of the oak had come crashing down. As I got closer, I felt a sense of loss. My spot. The place where I felt comfortable—gone.

Except my tree surprised me. The tree had split, certainly, but it fell the other way. My bough remained firm, upright, and welcoming. Things would be okay.

***

Reflecting back, I see God in that. My tree was my fortress, my place to go and feel safe. To think. To know everything is okay. Even just for a passing moment, it would be okay.

No matter the obstacles. Between the physical weight of the neighborhood kids, or the pure strength of mother nature, my place of shelter remained. That’s God. No matter the obstacles or what the world throws at me, God will be there. Welcoming. Standing strong.

Psalm 9:9 speaks on this, saying:

The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9 NLT

When you read the Bible you encounter story upon story of God seeking to be a shelter for his people. To be where they turn when the world threatens to close in.

***

Years after that storm, the tree stood. Eventually it was no longer safe, but it got me through a few rough years. I can no longer visit it, I can no longer sit in my spot and wish the world would stop spinning for a single solitary moment. But, as my faith developed, it also became less significant.

I found a stronger shelter. A different spot. I no longer needed to rule over my own kingdoms, my woods.

I found a better King.

Jeremy

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