Redwood trees are fascinating. Go to California, or just Google it, and be amazed. That’s how I’ve spent my morning off from work: Googling facts about a tree. Sounds silly, but it’s deeply humbling.
You see, for the past several months, I’ve been thinking about roots. A root is an underground part of a plant. Its purpose is to develop in such a way to anchor a plant and provide nutrients and moisture. The roots are vital to the plant. And the system of a plant’s roots, affects the way it grows. Damaged or shallow, and the plant is weak and easily swayed.
My root system affects the way I grow. I am weak and easily swayed if my roots are damaged or shallow.
My root system is my mind and experiences, things I’ve learned and read and experienced that grow deep into soil, anchoring me in my convictions and beliefs. And I often thought to myself, “If I just read more, study more, learn more, experience more, I’ll be anchored even deeper.” And going deeper, spiritually, mentally, and even relationally is a good thing. But what if I was more like a redwood tree?
A redwood tree can grow to be around 350 feet tall! And some redwood trees are centuries old! But surprisingly, their roots are shallow, only 5 or 6 feet deep. Knowing this, I asked myself: “Self, how does a redwood tree withstand the forces of nature: strong winds and raging floods?” And as I searched more on Google, it all came together: a redwood tree’s root system doesn’t just grow down deep, it grows out. These roots extend out, sometimes 100 feet out from the trunk of the redwood tree. And these roots then intertwine and fuse with other root systems. A redwood tree’s root system is actually other tree’s roots combined with their own.
What a beautiful picture of community and faith.
I’ve been trying to live this life separated and secluded, only letting a few people in close. And it’s not working. Life was intended to be intertwined, fusing with others’ lives. Messy and inconvenient perhaps, but still woven together. To reach out, is to reach out from yourself. For so long, I’ve been attempting to keep my roots deep and healthy, supporting them so I can be anchored and strong. And I’ve realized that’s completely backwards. Romans 11:18 says “…remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” I don’t make up my roots and anchor them. My roots make up me and anchor me. But even humbling is the system of roots developed in a forest of redwoods: I am anchored and supported by others as well. As I rejoice with those rejoicing, mourn with those mourning, I am extending outward. As I reach out, investing in others, my roots anchor them, encouraging and strengthening them.
I want to be a redwood tree. I want my roots to grow outward, overlapping and fusing with other roots. I want to grow tall and strong. I want to provide shelter and exhibit beauty that makes one observing stand in awe of God.
What does it look like on a daily basis? For me, it looks like reading my Bible differently, not just digging deep in one passage, but extending out and seeing the connectedness of the entirety of God’s Word. Relationally, it looks like sharing, taking risks, and investing. Mentally, it looks like sharing ideas and reading books I normally wouldn’t read. All of these extend my roots outward, overlapping with others.
But the truth about my roots, is that my roots are not my experiences, my convictions, my community, or my church. My God described Himself as the root. The root of Jesse. The root of David. My root. The One who provides that which I hunger and thirst for. My true, only sure anchor. My root. My source of strength. My root.