“His roots dry up below and his branches wither above” (Job 18:16).
A couple of years back, my daughter and I attended a fall field trip to a local arboretum. A field guide led our group through the park, teaching us how to identify a tree by its leaves and how trees prepare for the winter season. As we approached one area, the guide warned us to “watch our step”. A large, towering tree stood before us with its roots lay bare, spreading openly across the ground. The guide explained that the roots had been unable to grow or spread beneath the ground because the soil was too hard and dense. When this happens, the tree begins to turn on itself. It becomes diseased and starts to wither. If left this way, the tree will eventually die. The roots of the tree were dug up; intentionally exposed, to allow room for them to grow and spread. This process is the only way to restore the tree to health.
Plants, by their nature, are meant to grow in the ground and spread out their roots. All plants get the majority of their water and minerals from the soil via their roots. In addition, roots provide structural support for the plant and storage houses for the food produced by the plant.
Just like the tree, we all started somewhere. We have roots – a past, a background, a below-the-surface beginning. We were designed to grow and bear fruit; planted to become strong, stable storehouses. We’ve all been affected in some way by the hard soil of sin. Growth has been stunted, restrained, limited. We are all by nature objects of wrath until God graciously begins to dig up the roots of sin, exposing them for our healing. Granted, some roots are more compacted; some trees more diseased than others.
However, none are beyond the intensive care of our Father-Gardener who grafts us into the True Vine. Resisting His intentional work brings eventual death. Extending our roots toward Him, without fear of exposure, brings life and health.
My Father has been doing this root recovery work in me for the last several years. Some discoveries have been painful. Sometimes walking through the tangled, above ground root masses has been treacherous. But I know I have been rooted and established in love. I pray for the kind of faith that does not fear when the heat comes; when the rain doesn’t. I pray for eyes to see that nakedness was once beautiful and free before it was marred by sin. I long for the Eden kind of communion with the Lord; the total trust and provision of the garden where I have been planted.
“He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).
Jesus cursed the fig tree and it “withered from the roots”. The leaves and early figs should have appeared at the same time, but there were only leaves. Like this, we know when God is at work in us because we see signs of early fruit. Celebrate each bud and bloom, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. It is to the Father’s glory that we bear much fruit. Trust Him to remove whatever is hindering you.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).