Elton Trueblood was a Quaker and a theologian. He spent most of his career working on a college campus, at places such as Harvard and Stanford. Being surrounded by college students, it’s not surprising he once wrote: “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he never will sit.”
In a world that is increasingly about instant gratification and getting our way, Trueblood’s words are a good reminder that God calls us to think forward.
The apostle Paul would put it this way: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
It is a sign of maturity to invest in others without expecting an immediate return. The formation process takes time. Some lessons can be taught but must be internalized through experience.
Within the church, are we investing in the shade trees of tomorrow? How many churches have an active, intentional way of encouraging young people to consider full-time ministry as a vocation?
When I was in high school, Brad Carman (our local preacher) invested in a young sapling, believing that I had the potential to become a shade tree in the future.
There are several young guys on our staff and in our church that I try to spend time with — no agenda or curriculum. Just face-to-face time. I’m there to hear what they dream about, struggle with, and hope to become. I believe they have the potential to become shade trees.
A faithful and faith-filled church will invest dollars, time, and energy into the leaders of tomorrow. While we may benefit from the growth of their branches as they learn and develop, the majority of their influence may come at a later date, in another place.
I’m OK with that.
What shade trees are you planting?