Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Oak Inside the Acorn, A Guest Post

Last night, our oldest child had a fever and asked me to lay next him until he fell asleep.  So, while I cuddled him, I asked my husband to write a guest post for Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.

The Oak Inside the Acorn:  A Misty-Eyed Must Read with a Strong Message
by Mike Stanger

Many of us know that our children will grow up quickly.  After all, we heard it so often from our parents as we were growing up.

That’s why I try to cherish the moments I have with my children, even if some of those moments can be a bit tedious.  For example, I often cringe at reading one of The Magic School Bus series books for the 1,000th time.  These books are often mini-tomes that contain dozens of informational bits on a single page.

When my children beg me to read such books, I often become bleary-eye towards the middle, which causes me to resort to truncating entire pages into a couple of sentences.  Unfortunately for me, though, my children have the books memorized and easily sniff out my attempts at deception.

The other night, my children handed me a library book entitled The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado.  My first impression was that I would be reading this book ad nauseum for the next four weeks.

I sighed as I opened the book.

Thankfully, the story didn’t look too daunting and it appeared to be one that I could make quick work out of before my eyes started to bleed and my tongue got too tired from speed reading.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the end—I started to enjoy the book.

Let me get you up to speed.

The story starts off with an acorn talking to its “mother” the oak tree.  It expresses anxiety about leaving “mother’s” side and setting off on its own.  The oak tree comforts the acorn by telling it not to worry and to “just be the tree God made you to be.”

The acorn eventually falls into the back of a pickup truck, where it is taken to an orange tree grove and swept out to the field.  It starts to grow and befriends a neighboring orange tree.  While there, it quickly realizes that it is not like the other trees and starts to question its purpose.

Later, the farmer notices it and replants it next to his house.  As time passes and the oak tree keeps growing, it still wonders what it was meant to be.

One day, the farmer takes his daughter out to the tree and puts a swing over one of its branches.  From there on, we get to see snapshots of the girl growing up from the oak tree’s perspective. 

In one scene, the tree mentions how the girl is playing less in its treehouse and sitting more.  Another scene shows the girl being pushed on the swing by a boy.

It was at this point that I started to get a little moist around the eyes.  (I’m a sentimental sap that gets teary-eyed too often.  I cried like a baby at the end of Braveheart.) 

Yes, I knew what was coming with this book. 

As the little girl grew, the oak tree could sense the conflict burning inside her—what was she meant to be.  Near the end of the book, the girl – now a young woman – is sitting against the tree thinking, contemplating her purpose, scared about leaving the security of home. 

The tree laments at the fact that it wants to tell her the answer, but, of course, is unable to do so.  After all, it is a tree.

Instead, it shakes a little acorn off of its branches and into her hands.

The girl stands up and touches the tree, filled with the Spirit and realizing that it is time for her to become the “tree” God meant her to be.  Without speaking a word, the tree and the girl say their good-byes.

At this point in the story, I was a ball of sentimental mush.  My children were asking me what was wrong. I just held them and thought about the day when they fall from the tree.

As sad as that day will be for me, I know it has to be.  My hope is that even if they travel far physically, they will not fall far from the tree spiritually.

You see, it is up to us to ensure that when our children do leave us, their values remain true to their upbringing so that they can one day truly become the “trees” God meant them to be.

I echo my husband’s sentiments about The Oak Inside the Acorn and its message.

In fact, when I read the book to our children I found myself misty-eyed even earlier in its pages than my husband had been. 

I asked the children if they knew why both Mommy and Daddy cried when we read them this story.  So sprung up a chat about how much Daddy and I love them, just as they are – how we want to keep them near us, but know they will one day grow up and go away. 

With the book as a springboard, we discussed how God designed each of us in His own image, yet made us all unique – how He did so because He loves us and wants us to glorify Him.  How one of the best ways we can do this is to be patient enough to understand His plan for us, to trust it and to follow His call.  How we each have a gift inside ourselves, which we must honor, and how we might also see and encourage the gift in others.

With power and poignancy, The Oak Inside the Acorn resonates with these truths.  It also dovetails with Lent, because it hints at the strength, trust and faith needed for parents to steward children and then “give them up” so that they might fulfill God’s plan. 

It is a perfect, gentle story to share when discussing the recent Gospel about Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, as well as when sharing the greater story of the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is a beautiful, heart-tugging tale to read anytime. 

Both Mike and I appreciate The Oak Inside the Acorn as a tool for helping us – and our children – recognize and encourage the individual call God offers us. 

Sharing at Catholic Icing and Equipping Catholic Families, where you can find other wonderful faith-related ideas!


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