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Rooted in Love

Did you know that the roots of most oak trees grow in the top 18-inches of the soil? Oak roots aren’t deep, but they are wide.  They typically spread up to 3 times the visible width of the tree. This is a normal root structure for most large hardwood trees – beech, birch, sycamore, ash…you name it. 

By now, you might be impressed with how I’ve branched out with this arboreal knowledge.  Or, you might think I’m nuts and wasting your time.  Either way, I’d invite you to stick around because this is about to bear fruit (I’m done with tree-puns…be-leaf me).   

Ok, seriously though, there is an actual reason why it’s worthwhile for us to think about tree roots.  Even though we don’t typically see them, roots are a vital part of the tree.  They’re essential for drawing nutrients from the soil, storing water and mineral reserves, and keeping the tree anchored in the ground. Without solid roots, trees wouldn’t survive.

The other day I was walking on a path near my house.  This particular section of the trail is forested with a mixture of various hardwoods.  There was a very large oak tree on the hillside that had been uprooted.  What I found interesting is that this uprooted oak had fallen on its side.  Its impressively wide root system had caught on the trunk of a rather unimpressive and slender Beech tree.

Now, I didn’t talk to the trees about it, but I doubt that the Oak intended to be uprooted.  Strong winds and storms come – we all know this – but the Oak had survived those time and again.  Except for the one day that it didn’t.  Likewise, I don’t think the Beech was looking to catch the Oak tree.  It was just being a Beech tree, rooted in the hillside. 

We don’t get to choose whether storms or strong winds come into our life or the lives of people around us.  Few people intentionally choose to be uprooted either.  But whether through a series of hard circumstances or poor decisions…uprooting can happen.  In those moments, it’s really nice to have some other trees around.  

If you find yourself vulnerable to uprooting (you are human after all), remember that this is one value of missional community.  If the unexpected comes, you may be knocked over, but that doesn’t mean you need to slide all the way down into the valley.  

But for all of us, our primary task remains the same…to be “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17). And, like tree roots, this rootedness is unseen, but vital, to our life. Living our normal lives with Jesus in His Kingdom every day…this is our work. As Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”” (John 6:29, NIV).  Or elsewhere, “Abide in me, as I also abide in you.” 

We need deep roots that draw nutrients from Him, store up our reserves, and keep us firmly anchored in the ground.  If we can do this – stay rooted in Christ – we will be well positioned when the trees around us are unexpectedly uprooted.  And if we can build communities of rootedness, they’ll be there to catch us when the unexpected comes our way too. So, today, be like that Beech and focus on sinking your roots deep into God’s loving presence. 

Stephen is a Methodist Minister in Tennessee, USA, and a member of the Inspire Church Planters Cohort

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