Lately it’s been absolutely gorgeous outside, so at lunch, I’ve been going for hikes in the park near my office to get out and enjoy it.  Yesterday as I was hiking, I stumbled across what is probably the biggest acorn I’ve ever seen in my life.  To make things better, it had a cap shaped in such a way that it reminded me of a dude wearing a beret.  So, of course, I brought it back to my office, drew a face on it, and named it Bill.  Why, you might ask?  Because it makes me smile 🙂

Today as I was out hiking, I got to thinking about Bill the artistic acorn.  I realized that Bill wasn’t supposed to be an acorn; in reality, he was a pre-tree, a small brown container full of tremendous potential…wearing a hat 🙂  He was designed by his Creator with a specific purpose in mind, namely, to be a majestic oak tree, a tree that would provide shade and oxygen and shelter for birds and squirrels.

However, in order to realize its full potential, the acorn has to grow.  There’s a lot of risk in growth.  For the acorn, it means first breaking out of its protective shell.  After doing that, it has to put out roots, and then after it’s started taking in nourishment, it has to push up through the soil.  Above the surface there are a lot of dangers – lawn mowers, rabbits, freezing winters, scorching summers, fire, lumberjacks, termites, lightning, and any number of other risks.  Even the process of growth itself is painful and difficult at times.  But in order to become what it was created to be, it has to be willing to face these risks.

That got me to thinking about our lives.  We, too, were born with a tremendous potential.  We’re told numerous times throughout scripture that before we were even born, God had amazing plans for us and specific purposes for us to fulfill (cf. Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29, etc.)

Just as with the acorn, in order to realize those plans, we have to be willing to grow, and that growth involves risk.  There will be times that the growth is difficult, painful, and unpleasant.  It can require us to step out in faith, giving up the comfort and shelter of what we know, sometimes even to the displeasure of our peers, family, and friends.  There is also the added complication that we have an enemy who works to keep us from growing, trying to get us to stay in the relative comfort and familiarity of what we know and how things are.

But, there is a very real danger of foregoing growth and staying where it’s comfortable, too.  If the acorn stays in the comfort of its shell hidden in the protection of the soil for too long, eventually it will rot.  The same goes for us – if we refuse to grow, preferring instead to stay comfortable where we are, our soul will stagnate and eventually grow calloused, desensitized, and lukewarm.  Paul confronted the believers in Corinth about this in 1 Corinthians 3, and Jesus warned us in John 15:2a,6 and Revelation 3:16 about the dangers of not growing in our faith and relationship with Him.

As we grow and mature in our faith, there will be times of “pruning,” which Jesus told us about in John 15:2b.  This pruning, while not necessarily pleasant or fun, is necessary for the growth, health, and strength of our faith and relationship with Jesus.  Just like pruning a tree is used to remove damaged branches as well as branches that detract from the health of the tree, God’s pruning in our lives trims out things that are detrimental to our growth.

The important thing to remember is that He has our long-term best interest in mind, not our short-term comfort; His goal is to make us holy, not keep us happy.  The cool thing about this is that as we trust Him, His motives, and His character, we learn to also trust the pruning that He does in our lives as we grow, so that even when things don’t necessarily make sense to us, we can trust that He knows what He is doing.

As we continue growing in our faith, we are able to fulfill the plans that He has for our lives, whatever those may be.  And as for Bill the artistic acorn, I’m going to plant him in my back yard so that he, too, can start to realize his potential :o)