I’ve recently taken up gardening.
Or…more accurately…I’ve taken up letting my mom garden in our yard while I take all the credit.
(just kidding, ma…I tell them it was you).
My mom is a gardener in her bones. She was born with whatever gift that is to be able to distinguish a plant from a weed, perennials from annuals, and know the name and basic care regimen for almost any plant just from looking at a picture of it. She knows how to draw up beautiful plans for landscaping based on what flowers when, and isn’t afraid of hard labor and dirt under her fingernails.
She has planted some beautiful flowers, bushes, and even got us a tree! It’s all we can do just to make sure everything stays green on top.
These summer days get hot and our yard gets dry, so I’ve been weeding and watering in the evenings (since that’s about as far as my gardening skill set extends). I’ve found it to be a relaxing routine… the sun is setting, the noises of town are quieting, and the sound of a hose has become somewhat therapeutic after a long day. The watering part I like–the weeding I could do without.
I’m a bit of a lazy weeder, so I tend to just yank what’s on top and keep on movin’. I can hear my mom’s voice in my head “You can’t just pull the top of the weed. If you don’t pull out the root, it will grow back.”
Why? Because the roots are the origin of the plant. And when you rip a few leaves off, the roots will cause re-growth. How the roots grow…depth, width, strength…determines the life of the plant. They are the heartbeat–what exists underground determines everything about the plant growing above.
And so it is with us: our roots define us.
They determine how we grow and what kind of person we grow into. They develop our strengths and our weaknesses, our qualities of admiration and the parts that could use a little work. I’m not really talking about family origin kind of roots, although that plays a part, too. I’m talking about characteristics, about behaviors and decisions we have made that have taken root in our lives–for better and for worse–and affect us in so many ways.
When we take for granted our blessings and instead expect the things we “deserve” in life, a little root grows.
When we begin to get out of things by telling small lies, a little root grows.
When we speak unkindly to the people around us, a little root grows.
When we make sure to always keep an even score card without learning what it means to give freely and bless others, a little root grows.
When we have been wronged and refuse to forgive, a little root grows.
When we do wrong and refuse to apologize, a little root grows.
And before long, all these little roots become big roots and are embedded deeply into who we are. Decisions turn into behaviors turn into lifestyle.
We may think the things we’re doing now won’t matter in 10 years from now, but dear friend, I assure you, they do. It matters what your work ethic is, and if you value speaking truth. It matters if you make your family a priority, even when they drive you crazy. It matters how you treat people and what you do to get ahead in life. It matters how you respect yourself, and how you treat your friends.
Because who you will be in a month, in a year, and in many years to come is being formed right now by the roots you are growing in your life.
So what now? We have made a mixture of good choices and bad, and everything in between. Those choices became patterns became roots. And if we want something to change in our life, we can’t just address the behavior…we’ve got to get to the root…”if you don’t pull out the root, it will grow back”…
The root of why we tend to think of ourselves first.
Or why we aren’t honest.
The root of our envy and jealousy.
Or why we feel so angry all the time.
The root of why we cannot admit when we are wrong.
When we can’t celebrate the joy in our friends lives without wishing it was our own, we need to get to the bottom of it.
And when we wrestle with a strained relationship, there’s usually a root that has taken hold in our hearts with a deeper reason to be uncovered.
While our roots define us and anchor us, we get to decide which roots stay, and which roots need to go.
And let me tell you from experience, pulling out roots is a long and painful process. It doesn’t happen in a day, but it does get easier as time goes on.
We can apologize when we don’t feel sorry because we know it’s the right thing to do and pray it changes our hearts. We can celebrate when we’re grieving inside and pray that we truly experience joy. We can bless others with our time, money and resources when we’re not sure we have enough, and we can do this again and again until it feels natural and good and all we want to do is give.
We can do the opposite of what we feel, what we’re inclined to normally do, to begin the process of uprooting things in our lives to make room for healthy, sturdy roots. Roots of kindness and selflessness; roots of goodness and self-control. Roots the produces loyal friendships and help us have patience with others. The “fruit” in our lives…the good things that come from us…start within us..start as roots.
As you ponder your roots….the things that have obviously or subtly made their way into your heart and into your actions and your words…may you have the discernment to know what should stay and what should go. And may you have the strength to follow through…to do the hard thing… when something needs uprooted.
It’s painful, but I promise you…it’s worth it.