Monday, January 6, 2014

The Oak and the Mangroves: A Cautionary Tale

A tropical storm rages off of Florida's coast – the outer arms of its impeding torrents and slip winds curl just shy of the storm as the waves churn more fierce – much like the first voices decrying persecution and awaiting the resounding chaos of those who take up their banner. These waves are the cavalry, sweeping away any animal or sprout small and unfortunate enough to be caught in its pull. A single Oak stands on this shore, embedded in a rock older than the shore itself – the granite older than the grains of sand which finally exposed it to the sun – standing obstinate against the waves. Its roots have dominated the rock, much like a man dominates his theology. Its trunk is battered, with many scores and cuts from the flotsam of the waves.

As the tree overlooks its newest adversary, it is reminded of the historic storms it survived when younger; though every year melds together, it and its friends were contented to stand against the storms, crying out in the gale for the storms to stop. Their numbers were thinned, and he was left alone – the strongest Oak in the world. Its trunk several feet thick and its limbs reaching vast and unyielding, the tree braces for the impacts.

Elsewhere further down the coast, a single Mangrove looks to the storm with bravery. If the Mangrove was alone, it would indeed have need to be frightened; much like any normal human, this Mangrove understands that he cannot stand against much alone. Its roots are wide and deep, but being so deep in the water leaves him exposed. But he is not afraid.

As the wind pushed him toward the shore, and the waves push him up, his roots drag and brace against his reason for bravery: the same rock the Oak has pierced and rooted deeply into, the Mangrove has dug into as well, though this rock has not been shown the sun lately. The wind pushes him back, and as he sways, his sister behind him holds him – as does the three other brothers around her, and the ten behind them, and the fifty behind them, leading to a swamp of Mangroves extending for miles. He is emboldened further by this community.

The first wave hits, and engulfs all the forward trees. Their leaves rip away, and the wave pierces through to the later ranks. However, as it cuts through the trees, each tree absorbs a certain portion of the wave's power, completely subduing the rage of the sea. It is not time for celebration, for there are more waves, and fearsome winds, to face in short time.

The storm hits in fierce bitterness, howling against the Mangroves. All of them are embedded in the granite beneath, and the waves are mollified and proven ineffective against the trees of the rock, standing together. The Mangrove in the front was broken off in the waves, thrown back through its brothers and sisters, and goes flying with the wave. It is in a panic, and reaches out for help, for the community it once loved. As the wave is crushed, the Mangrove sweeps in with the swell into another group of Mangroves; it grafts with the network of roots and branches in time, but it is safe against the storm – connected to the rock underneath by the trees surrounding him.

The storm is gone inland now, and the sister of the uprooted Mangrove is reminded of the Oak that he spoke of; she looks down the shore in its direction, and quickly averts her gaze. The Oak indeed lived a strong life, but in its will to prove itself against the storms of its life, it bit into the rock, crushing and warping it, until it no longer was the rock it knew as a young sapling. The Oak faltered in the storm; its trunk burst apart under the weight of the wind against its proud branches and the waves against its length.

The canopy was nowhere to be seen, but the trunk was a legacy of violence. The scored and gnarled length was on its side, its top a shredded mass of splinters and sap. The rock it so tightly clung to and never wavered from cracked and fractured, bursting apart predictably – but unthinkable to the oak. Its wreckage was all over the shore, and the waves came in to pull away the dust of the rock, to bring back to the sea.

Occasionally this dust would make it over to the Mangroves, and the sea would ask, “Is this not your rock, which your copse so tightly clings to?”

The Mangroves respond, “That dust does not belong to my rock; our rock gives us strength through each other. None of us claim to own the rock, or be more tight into the rock, and yet all of us are embedded.”

Don't be an Oak. This God doesn't need you to prove something, He needs you to stand against the storm. This analogy is not perfect, because obviously trees cannot uproot and go to sea, but let us assume that the sea's mercurial nature suffices that defect in the analogy.

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