By Elisa Morgan
What’s above the ground is held in place by what’s beneath it. Skyscrapers tethered to steel pilings. Freeway overpasses harnessed to concrete supports. Trees clawed into soil by sturdy roots.
Trees and roots are interdependent. Trees grow from the roots up; roots grow from the tree down. Roots provide sustenance, stability and strength for the tree to stand. Trees bear the fruit of roots. They carry leaves and nuts and apples and blossoms as their relationship to the root matures.
How true this is in life! We grow when we’re attached to those things that offer sustenance, stability and strength! When someone in our family faces sickness, we dig deep for medical information. When a job is trying, we cling to the wisdom of mentors who offer perspective. When a friend faces tragedy, we stand on the foundation of years together and offer hope. When we live life from the sustenance of a vibrant “root system,” we flourish.
We grow up and out from the place of stability provided by our roots.
My roots took form in Houston, Texas. Forests of pines, thick air you could barely suck in and out and cockroaches the size of armadillos. Deep and wide friendships characterized my rootedness through my high school years.
My roots encircled a grandma we called “Munna” who taught me to sew culottes and make Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. Tendrils of roots wound around high school days where I was involved in school government and cheering, Monday nights discovering more of God at Young Life meetings and driving to and from it all in a hand-me-down white Chevy Impala with peeling apart black vinyl seats. At times, the confusing roots of my mother’s struggle with alcohol and my father’s absence through divorce seemed to choke me.
As I grew and as I reached out for the next and the next and the next place of development, I experienced an imbalance, a topsy-turvy weaving as if standing atop stacks of boxes with no sturdiness beneath me. While I loved the family of my origin, warts and all, I longed for something more permanent, more dependable and more predictable … and … well … more my own. As I looked out ahead to the future, I intuitively knew I needed more stability than the colorful but unreliable roots of my upbringing. To grow into all I could be and offer it out to my world, I knew I needed a stronger framework to support the weight, the reach, and the expansion of my being.
I began to ask more questions at youth group. I opened my fifth-grade Bible and read some words from the gospel of John. I bowed my head with a friend and asked for help from Jesus. I hiked up the tree-trunk of my being, lifted my rooted feet, and set them down in a new place. Oh, I left a toe attached here and there; family is family is family after all. But intentionally, on purpose, and with deliberate choosing, I planted new roots in a place of faith. I drilled down into God – a source of sustenance that won’t shift, doesn’t fail and can be counted upon no matter what.
Today I stand on this same foundation I discovered at age sixteen, and over the years, my roots have gone even deeper. From the source of faith, I find buds growing in very unexpected places and branches reaching out toward undreamed of ends. A mother of children in their late thirties now? A grandmother of an eighteen-year-old and seven-year-old? A wife of over forty years? A daughter no more due to the death of my parents in my thirties? A dog-owner when I’ve always preferred cats?
When the storms of death or illness appear, I suck up strength from my roots. When the heat of multiple deadlines scorches, I draw fresh hope from the source at my feet. When the wind howls, threatening to topple me altogether, I find the support necessary to keep standing from the roots I’ve put in place. Unlike people, places and even achievements, my roots of faith remain intact, offering what I need no matter what I face as a woman, a mother and a human, growing a tree of life in this world.
“Let your roots grow down into Christ and draw up nourishment from him.” Colossians 2:7a (Living Bible)
Elisa Morgan's latest book is You Are Not Alone. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.