Thinking for the Long Term
The magnificent A.D. 1379 architecture of New College Hall at Oxford University features beautiful, gigantic solid oak beams that spanned the ceiling of its large interior main room. The story is told that at the time of its construction, the designers planted a grove of little oak saplings near the building with the instruction that in a few hundred years those trees were to be used to replace the oak roof beams when it became necessary.the ministry of classical Christian education is an endeavor where most of the payoffs are long-term: mature Christians who are wise, godly, and eloquent
As it turned out, a powder post beetle infestation was discovered in the oak beam in 1858. The ancient oak trees were at that time reportedly cut down in order to produce beams patterned after the originals. In their place, new oak saplings were planted with the anticipation that they might be needed someday, another few centuries down the road.
It is unclear today exactly how much of the Oxford story is actual fact. And for the sake of this essay, it’s also too bad the trees weren’t cedars. But it still makes an interesting illustration of the value of advance planning. When the vision behind our efforts is long-term, lasting benefits come.
Medieval cathedrals were built over a span of centuries, constructed by those who acted in faith that future generations would someday harvest the benefits of their difficult toil and sacrifice. Likewise, the ministry of classical Christian education is an endeavor where most of the payoffs are long-term: mature Christians who are wise, godly, and eloquent. As we can In a society where easy credit has facilitated the enjoyment of pleasures today at the expense of tomorrow’s anticipated earnings, we need to live resolutely and self-consciously against the current of living merely for today.never expect anything that is truly lasting to be “easy” and “pain-free”, so we must expect there to be labor before we can anticipate the fruits.
This vision of nurturing hearts and cultivating minds is what must drive our efforts. Even beyond the excitement of looking forward to a new facility and our anticipated growth, the real, lasting source of our excitement should be the forming of Christian scholars. This long-term perspective should be the vision by which we evaluate our present actions.
In a society where easy credit has facilitated the enjoyment of pleasures today at the expense of tomorrow’s anticipated earnings, we need to live resolutely and self-consciously against the current of living merely for today. We are building for the future with a thoroughly Christ-centered education.
Saplings of oak (cedar) are being planted and watered here. May God give us grace to serve our spiritual (and physical) great great grandchildren in this ministry.
Tom Bradshaw has been serving as Cedar Tree’s headmaster since 2006. This essay was first published in 2007.