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What I Learned From a Tree

I recently went to a conference where I heard a story that I hadn’t heard before. It’s a true story about a tree. This tree was planted 100 years ago in Oklahoma – sometime around 1920.

Here is the tree in the backyard or someone’s home around 1947.

Somehow throughout expansion and modernization, this tree remained. Houses were built and torn down around it. As the area became commercial, office buildings were built around the tree. Even a parking lot was built around the tree. While all the other trees were cut down, this tree remained.

Eventually, this tree was in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where the tragic Oklahoma bombing occurred on April 19, 1995. Like the building, the tree suffered severe damage and was deemed irreparable by experts. It was slated to be cut down because it had little chance of survival and was wanted for the shrapnel and evidence embedded in its trunk and branches.

The people of the community rallied around the tree. It had become a gathering place after the bombing and became a symbol of hope for the community. The community petitioned, and the removal was deferred until spring.

When spring came, the tree had the start of new growth and was spared the planned execution. Today the tree has revived completely and is an enormous healthy three. The branches have extended outward and heavenward into a lush green umbrella shape.

As I saw the contrast between the picture of the bombed-out tree and the tree it is today, I was struck with a sudden insight. I have been trying to be the best bombed-out tree I could be.

This revelation was news to me. I haven’t thought of myself as “less than” or “damaged” regardless of my circumstances. What I am is stubborn. I am always determined to be my best and make the best of any situation. What dawned on me during this pivotal moment of divine insight is that I was stubbornly determined to be the best “bombed out tree” I could be when what God has in mind for me is so much more! He sees me becoming a healthy, thriving, glorious tree.

Scripture says that God delights to bless us. He has something better than you’ve imagined in store for you. Are there areas in your life where you – like me – are being the best “bombed out tree” instead of opening up to the possibility of so much more?

Like with a tree, growth won’t be instantaneous, and it may be a bit painful to grow from a bombed-out trunk into a glorious thriving tree. But, if you are like me, when you look at the contrast between the trees, there is no doubt that it is worth the faith, effort, and growing pains that it may take to become the more glorious version of yourself that God wants to bless you and help you to become.

To read more about what is now known as the survivor tree, go to

On a side note. What does this have to do with leadership? “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). One of the irrefutable traits of leadership in nearly all the literature is having a vision. As a leader, you must have a vision of what you can become and what those who you lead can become. You must be able to see beyond the bombed-out tree to the glorious potential.

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