One of Dr. Stanley’s more poignant photographs is of a barren oak tree in the middle of gently rolling ocean waves. It’s a strange pairing, almost otherworldly, for the two should not exist in the same space. It took 100 years and the erosion of more than two miles of marshland to bring them together. When that happened, the saltwater poisoned this tree and others surrounding it, and the sun slowly turned their branches white.
All of the trees on this stunning natural shoreline are dead. Only their husks remain. But thankfully, this photograph tells only one scene in the long story of the world. It isn’t the end. There is nothing so far gone that God cannot and will not redeem it—even salt-bleached trees. Even us.
This restoration is promised throughout Scripture, but nowhere is it more stunningly described than in the book of Isaiah. He tells of a time and place where “the wolf will dwell with the lamb” and “the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 11:6; Isa. 55:12). When that happens, this earth will finally be a place where “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Because I know God’s promises are true and perfect, I take heart from Isaiah’s words to the afflicted, God’s promise to His people. One day, we will all wear “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fasting,” and on that day we “will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the lord, that He may be glorified” (Isa. 61:3).
Every time I look at this photo, I mourn what was lost and eagerly look forward to that day when the world will be fully set right. There will come a day when we “will know fully just as [we] also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And the trees on Boneyard Beach, so far gone, will not simply be restored to their former green-leafed glory but transformed into something far greater—the trees they were meant to be.
Photograph by Charles F. Stanley