You are Acorn and Oak


Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns, nestled at the foot of a grand old oak tree. Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, fully Westernized acorns, they went about their business with purposeful energy; and since many were midlife, baby-boomer acorns, they engaged in a lot of self-help courses. There were seminars called “Getting All You Can out of Your Shell.” There were woundedness and recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were spas for oiling and polishing those shells and various acornopathic therapies to enhance longevity and well-being.

One day in the midst of this kingdom there suddenly appeared a knotty little stranger, apparently dropped “out of the blue” by a passing bird. He was capless and dirty, making an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns. And, crouched beneath the oak tree, he stammered out a wild tale. Pointing upward at the tree, he said, “We… are… that!”

Delusional thinking, obviously, the other acorns concluded, but one of them continued to engage him in conversation: “So tell us, how would we become that tree? “Well,” he said, pointing downward, “It has something to do with going into the ground… and cracking open the shell.” “Insane,” they responded. “Totally morbid! Why, then we wouldn’t be acorns anymore.”

So much of our time is spent trying to become happy acorns, when we are meant for oakness. That is, we are meant to break out of our shells. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,” Jesus says, “it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

We are all nervous about the falling and cracking open of course, but in God’s brilliant design this is prelude to exaltation.

The next time you fall, have the courage not to save yourself (for the thousandth time); stay quiet until you feel that hardened outer shell crack just a bit and the everlasting mystery takes over. God will begin the work of transformation in your heart and you will know, at least for a moment, the astonishing truth of your oaken identity.

Nobody can do this alone. We all need somebody to remind us that cracking open is all right, that it hurts but the end of it all is joy. That, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the main purpose of any faith community–to hold each others’ hands as we’re cracked open by the forces of life, to remind each other to trust that the little life we are losing will give way to a life greater than we could imagine in our little acorny hearts.


*Jacob Needleman, Lost Christianities.

Thai Boys, My Boys

On Tuesday, when the last four boys and their coach were rescued from that watery cave/grave in Thailand, I was alone in my car listening to the radio. As I heard how young boys who could not swim—much less cave-dive in inky blackness—were fitted with masks and led underwater through harrowing passages, I found myself…

Basic Training for the Soul

What do you do in a crisis? I read this week about a spiritual director who was taking flying lessons. The man asked the instructor why they used flight simulators so much. He replied, “In the moment of crisis, you will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your training.” The temptation is…

A Lesson in Humility

No matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592) When an Archbishop of Canterbury visits, it’s a big deal. He’s a big deal. He lives at Lambeth…

In Praise of Boring Church

“For me, I like to go to church on Sunday mornings to organize my thoughts, organize my week, and be quiet. And you don’t walk out of a church because you’re bored. You go to church to be bored–to have that time. And you can have it in your room in the lotus position or you can have it…