God Speed Little Buddy!
        In the Bible Study class I lead, we’re walking through the Book of Genesis.  A story of God and humanity in relationship from the beginning and the complicated relationships of families and neighboring peoples.  Genesis is not a scientific or even historical book in a modern sense.  It’s a narrative of ancient Israel’s traditions, myths and legends, some revisions of the past, and cultural memories.  In Genesis, there’s plenty of genealogies with names not quite featured on those Top 20 Baby Names lists anymore.  For instance, “Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.  She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shurah.” (Genesis 25:1-2)

Yikes!  We do our best to plow through these names and continue on with the story.  In one of these lists of names, we happened upon Elon the Hittite (Genesis 26:34).  I am a 2007 graduate of Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, so was delighted to find a name that I could actually pronounce!  Elon is Hebrew for “Oak Tree” and is also a unique male name one may happen upon in the Bible.  I shared my favorite Elon tradition with our Bible Study Class as we considered these long lists of complicated names.

When you begin studying at Elon, you are given an acorn.  When you graduate, you are given an oak sapling to plant out in the world.  There’s a part of campus, the oldest part of campus in fact, that features glorious beautiful old oak trees.  Graduation is always held outside “under the Oaks.”  During your time at the university, you grow and change and hopefully mature!  You begin as an acorn and end as a hopeful, young sapling.  The symbolism is quite powerful.

After receiving my small, vulnerable oak sapling after graduating “under the Oaks,” I returned home to Ohio.  And the little oak was lovingly planted in the side yard at my parents’ home.  My older sister wisely took a picture to capture the moment.  We both didn’t have high hopes that the little sapling would survive.  (Our mother has a black thumb as we like to say!)  Her caption was simply: God speed little buddy!

Yet against all odds, my Elon Tree has not only survived but thrived.  When I return home, I can’t help but capture the growth of my tree and admire its beauty.  It makes me grateful for my time at Elon and how much I learned and changed—to be able to grow, arms outstretched to the heavens, out in the world today.  It also makes me contemplate how God meets us where we are to help us grow.  Genesis is full of complicated and sometimes rather shady characters!  But we can see hope and transformation—inspiration for a continuing, blossoming relationship with God and each other.

Long live Elon!  And thanks be to God!

My Elon Tree, Summer 2014