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Dandelions, Evergreens, and Oaks

Dandelion seeds float on little white parachutes past my bedroom window in the spring. The wind carries them to a location they do not know. Once they reach their newfound home, they put down roots where they will pop up as the sea of yellow that covers greening lawns fresh out of the thaw of winter heading into the warmth of summer. Constant motion outside my window. Envious and jealous, I cannot help but wish my life were more like the dandelion seed. I long to move, to be free, to float where the wind takes me.

An acorn drops on my head as I go to get my mail in the fall. My driveway and yard are littered with round, brown spheres that make loud bangs as they hit my house roof and siding. Squirrels and chipmunks hoard them for the impending chill of winter. They are not much to look at. Gravity pulls them right to the ground. There they will decay and seed the ground as the oak tree plans ahead for its progeny.

Dandelions pop up. Yellow and fuzzy, they greet me in the spring and I’m amazed at the speed at which they spread. They carpet my lawn and contrast with the brownish-green grass from which they rise. But just as quickly as they arrive, they’re gone. The yellow petals fall away and a fuzzy seedbed appears that will be carried with the wind to transplant the progeny of the spring flower.

A sapling emerges from the ground rising from the decaying husk of the acorn. If the sapling survives, years will pass before the oak tree will offer shade and acorns to the world around it. Its evolution is slow and steady and its roots slowly creep into the ground anchoring the plant into the soil.

Dandelions rapidly appear each spring and put down shallow roots very quickly. Just as quickly as the roots are in the ground, the dandelion begins its process of decay that will give way to life. No shade is found from its petal, lest you be an ant. The pop of color is quickly gone. The flying seeds are soon grounded. A mere flash in the seasonal calendar, the life of a dandelion is fleeting—merely seasonal.

The oak tree sends roots deeper and deeper into the ground. Reaching down toward a water table and stretching up toward the sun, the oak is both anchored and reaching. Tethered and free. Giving and receiving. It moves slowly and its evolution is not exciting. Its cousin, the evergreen, maintains its green needles year round. The oak, by contrast, rests in late fall and winter. Its canopy of leaves changes to bright orange and red before nothing but bare branches remain. While the evergreen remains green year round, its roots are shallow. Winter may make the evergreen visually superior to the oak. But when the first big gusts of winter come, the evergreen topples while the bare oak sways to and fro. Anchored in the ground and stretching toward the sky. The oak has lasting power.

Which one, Lord, do I long to be and which one marks my life? Do I long for the constant motion of the dandelion, the changeless image of the evergreen, or the anchoring of the oak?

Which one provides a greater legacy to my life? The pop of color of the dandelion? The normalcy of the evergreen? The shade of the oak?

Which one, dear Jesus, would I use to describe your involvement in my life? The quick, sudden encounter of the dandelion? The religiosity yet shallow rootedness of the evergreen? The abiding and anchored rest of the oak?

“They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV)


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