During this Lent, I visited a local garden that houses this mighty Oak tree pictured above. The tree sits powerfully in a clearing, and you can see how this ancient oak has spread its arms widely to capture the available light and stretch itself out to the world around it. Humans have recognized this spreading by marking the perimeter with a labyrinth, further marking its spiritual place in the world.
Last weekend, our local centering prayer group reflected on this image; they did not benefit from seeing the tree in the “flesh” but instead just meditated on the image you see here. Some thought of the power of its branches and how well it lives in the world. Others imagined the roots and how deep they must have spread to support the wide span of the branches above. One particular individual noted the branch on the left of the tree, which seems to be all twisted at some point in its growth and then straightened itself out again. These points were noted because I asked them to look at the tree through a Lenten “lens”. How was the tree expressing a Lenten Journey to them?
It is amazing, particularly during Lent, if we just reflect for a moment in the awareness of what is around us, particularly nature, how Lent could be viewed differently. As a time of awareness of where we are, what we are doing, what, perhaps, reflects our journey. Or, indeed, what needs to change in our own lives.
If something as simple as the photograph of this mighty oak can conjure up feelings of strength, of paths that have gone crooked in our lives and then straightened themselves out, then perhaps we can do the same. By examining our journey through living and noticing the present around us, we can indeed be a part of the 40 days and nights that draw us deeper into our faith. And, at the same time, noticing both the beauty and the brokenness which surrounds us each day—knowing that in the end. All will be well. All manner of things will be well. (Julian of Norwich)