Growing up in the Midwest, I love tall, deciduous trees towering over my head. And the pine trees are so large you can’t wrap your arms around them. The magnificence of these trees fires my imagination. I think about
Wait? What? Destruction?
What do you see in this picture?
Gorgeous trees. Strong towering ancient woods.
Imagine that you are walking along this sidewalk enjoying the cool breezes and bird songs.
Notice the cracks and heaving. As I looked around, the only thing visible were tree roots running under these gigantic concrete slabs. Not only did the roots lift the slabs, but they also created enough upward pressure to crack them in multiple locations. Huge slabs of concrete like in this sidewalk weigh approximately 400 pounds for the 4’x 4’section.
A natural force pushing against an object that far outweighs it yet causing significant damage.
What are the roots seeking?
Nourishment. Water. Sustenance.
I look at the magnificent tree admiring its beauty. Noting the roots holding up the weight of this tree, I marvel at their strength. Taproots generally go deep depending on soil conditions. However, many roots run parallel to the surface due to soil conditions. Some giant tree roots stay close to the surface but can extend up to 100 feet from the trunk. They can intertwine and build a massive root system that creates stability for these wooden umbrellas.
But I also see the destruction caused by tree roots and wonder.
I’ve always thought of roots as good things.
Studying my family history provides insight into who I am today. That’s good, right?
What positives do roots provide?
Just like roots that intertwine and even merge, we crave knowing where we’ve come from. We have an innate need to belong. If your family of origin failed to provide that sense of belonging, I’m sorry. God created that longing for belonging in you because He longs to be with you. Start new with God.
Trees depend on their roots to provide water and other nutrients from the soil. You and I need nourishment to grow and mature as well. Our nourishment comes from healthy relationships, friendships, coaches, reading God’s word–the Bible, teachers, studying classic literature and history, and other sources.
Roots provide stability. When we establish certain beliefs, behaviors, and practices, we feel grounded. If you know what you believe, others may try to sway you, but like a tall tree, you don’t break under the wind’s force.
My heart warms at the vision of how our lives can be like these strong, tall trees with roots that keep us nourished and grounded.
But are there negative outcomes from roots?
The cracks in the sidewalk chilled the warmth in my heart. Maybe roots aren’t always good. Those bulging cracks made me stop and wonder.
Can roots cause upheaval in your life? See what you think.
Deep roots mean that tree isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. At first blush, this may seem like a positive. But, if your roots sink so deep into negative behavior, like perfectionism, people-pleasing, or porn addiction, that you feel you can’t change or have no desire to change, then this permanence creates negative results. You push away those who love and care for you most for an object that isn’t real. You trade meaningful relationships for titillating moments.
The cracks in the sidewalk are a call for help. The tree is trying to protect itself but causing destruction. While we need to care for ourselves, self-protective tendencies actually result in the opposite outcome desired. People with low self-esteem adjust their behavior to garner approval from others. They try to avoid rejection, thus hiding their true personalities, thoughts, and feelings. Thus, the behavior pushes other people away, which is the exact opposite of what they want.
My husband explained to me that pornography was a “medicine” of sorts. Something he turned to when he was caught in the Cycle of Shame. His “roots” searched for self-protection, running along the surface to nowhere good, and the results were destructive.
The roots’ aggressive desire to find nourishment disrupts another object. Look again at the picture.
Dan Allender’s book, The Wounded Heart, describes three general relational styles abused women use—the good girl, the tough girl, and the party girl. While women who adopt the tough girl stance often come across as disciplined, task-oriented, and take charge, they often live behind thick fortified emotional walls. She is often arrogant and angry. Yet, others perceive her as talented and capable. She exhibits a strength of will some women may envy. However, she’s a prickly pear and what Allender calls “emotionally impenetrable.”
As you think through these six “root outcomes,” which one or ones do you identify with?
Be honest with yourself. No one else needs to know right now.
If you, like me, identify with more of the negative outcomes, there is hope.
Our human nature is to grasp for control, to dictate everything and everyone around us. We want a guarantee that we won’t be hurt again if we loosen our control grip. We know how to follow a checklist to make something happen and are willing to do it as long as we get the desired result.
But that’s not God’s way.
God invites us to trust Him to provide everything we need and the desires of our hearts.
He gives us the right and responsibility to choose a better way and take actions based on dependence on Him. God wants to help us grow deep, healthy roots. No shallow, surface-only, destructive roots with Him.
“Trusting in God involves the loss of our agenda, our flaming torch, so that we die to our inclination to live a lie. It requires forfeiting our rigid, self-protective, God-dishonoring ways of relating to embrace life as it is meant to be lived: in humble dependence on God and passionate involvement with others.” Dan Allender
Jesus said it this way to us in John 15:
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.”
Putting down roots deep into Jesus’ and the Father’s way brings belonging, nourishment, and the stability we crave and need.
These roots help us recover to live our preferred future—the abundant, amazing, and authentic life.
Not exactly sure where your roots are?
Wondering if they’re strong enough to support you? Are you starting to see the cracks in the pavement? You don’t have to figure this out alone. There is more protection in a forest than a single tree. Let’s talk.