Of trees, trains and Christian growth

There’s a stand of huge old oak trees in the park where I walk. They have a slightly surprised air, as if they’ve been transplanted from a genteel English landscape and are wondering how they ended up here, surrounded by scruffy wattle trees under a burning Australian sun, with graffiti tags on their trunks and white cockatoos squawking from their branches like rowdy antipodean visitors.

Like all oaks, they are firmly rooted, growing down and out as much as up, offering a dense, dark shade. Every year of their long lives, they have put out new growth in spring, watched it harden into summer’s dusty green, lost dry brown leaves in autumn, and bared their twisted black limbs in winter.

There’s a railway track running through the park. I watch the trains gleam and flash through the trees, humming and creaking over the heritage-listed timber bridge on its sturdy, numbered trestles. The trains are always in a hurry, tooting their horns, bustling self-importantly to the next station.

For over a century, the oaks have grown steadily as the trains have shed old fashions and adopted new ones—steam trains, red rattlers, blue trains, sleek silver trains, silver trains with green and gold, silver trains with blue and yellow stripes. (This is a Melbourne story; no doubt in your part of the world, the trains have different fashions.)

The trees and the trains bring to mind a Bible verse I read recently:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:6-7)

We don’t grow as Christians by hurrying from place to place, taking on the colour of each year’s new spiritual fad—second blessings, signs and wonders, slayings in the Spirit, guiding visions. We grow in the same way God’s people have always grown: by sinking our roots deeper into Christ. Here, fed and nourished by the gospel, we gain an enduring wisdom. We give shelter. We stand firm through all the seasons and storms of life.

May God help us to be more like trees than trains.

4 thoughts on “Of trees, trains and Christian growth

  1. Thanks Jean for a great post.  I feel your illustration could apply to many facets of life and our Christian “walk”, not just spiritual “fads”.

    I think it’s good though to differentiate between the changing seasons—the slow gradual changes that are a natural part of life—and the fashions of the day—the shallow, rapidly changing fads.  Our lives as Christians will go through seasons. Sometimes we will feel extraordinarily close to God, other times we will feel as though we are alone in a dry barren desert …

    Anyway, enough of my waffling!

    Thanks again,


  2. That’s true, we do go through stages and seasons – like the stages and seasons trees go through! So the metaphor holds!! wink

    Thanks, Liz, for your encouragement and helpful observations.


  3. Thanks Jean for a great post! 

    Did you ever read the article by C.S. Lewis called ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children’, in which he used the same metaphor?

  4. No, I haven’t read that – although I’ll have to now! smile

    I was certainly painfully aware that I hadn’t come up with anything original! But I love to think of Christian growth this way. And good theology is always old theology, isn’t it?!

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