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Roots ... the place from which growth springs, whether for good or ill. Do you have any "roots" beneath the surface of your life? Are they roots that cause you to produce "good fruit"? Or perhaps are there unruly weeds popping up their heads now and then, from bitter roots running beneath the surface of your life ... or of your household ... business ... church?

The scriptures talk about our need to be "rooted and grounded" in love (Eph 3: 17). Jesus spoke of His own being the "vine", and His believers being the "branches" (John 15: 1-17), and any "fruit" being produced, as coming from the "vine", essentially, the "root" of Himself. Paul spoke of Gentile believers being "grafted in", and sharing in the "nourishing sap from the olive root" (Romans 11: 17-18).

Preparing for Spring

These are wonderful images of the source of true growth and productivity (fruit). As a gardener, now and then the word pictures in the Bible will "come to life" and take on extra meaning. Take for instance a recent experience preparing a garden bed for the arrival of spring. A flower bed in which we have some plants with grass-like foliage (a type of Iris) had begun to be invaded by a very insidious weed ... actually a weed grass, that creeps along with roots right beneath the surface of the soil. For the past several years, I would pull out the grass, and try to get as much of the runner root as possible, knowing that if even a tiny portion of the root was left, it would develop an entire new plant.

Not all plant roots work that way, but a few very tenacious weeds are extremely annoying because in attempting to remove them, the little bits of root that are left can potentially cause a greater problem, with many more plants growing up where those little roots had spread stealthily underground.

This spring, I realized that the grass had spread so actively in this particular flowerbed, that the whole bed had to be TOTALLY dug up, and the roots of all the plants had to be untangled from each other. What a HUGE task it was. It was hard to keep the little roots from breaking, or staying in the soil. I did the best I could, replanting that flowerbed in rich, weed free soil. Time will tell if any small roots are still growing. For now I think (and HOPE) that particular bed will be growing more beautifully ... flourishing and healthy.

Upside Down World

Those roots in many ways reminded me of our lives. Sometimes things can get so out of control, that it seems our entire life; our entire world gets "turned upside down". As I pulled plants out of that bed, I would turn them over, and remove the dirt, to expose the roots, then untangle the mix of true plant roots verses "weed" roots. I would painstakingly place the weed roots in a refuse pile, while healthy plants without weed roots clinging to them were put aside to be replanted.

Some plants, however, were so completely entangled with the weed roots, that I dared not replant them, lest any little bit that had been left would re-grow. Those entire plants were placed in the garbage pile. I didn't even dare throw them in the compost, since even there I didn't trust the tiny root segments of the grass not to "get out" and invade the surrounding soil. The only thing they were "good for" was to either be thrown in the garbage, or to be burned up, so that they couldn't cause more problems.

Being Burned

It reminded me of the scriptures that mention being "burned". In fact, in that passage above, Jesus says: "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:6) In another passage, in which Jesus is telling a parable about the end times, He says: "At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." (Matthew 13:30b) In Hebrews (6:7-8) the author says: "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned."

Those passages have always seemed rather "harsh" to me. Yet as a gardener, I understand that I wasn't about to willingly allow those weeds back in to damage the rest of the plants again. If I could have safely done it, I would have liked to "burn" that little section of ground, to make sure there were no more little pieces of weed roots. Actually, from what I have heard, that is precisely what is done, intentionally, in more agricultural communities, to enrich the soil, and of course get rid of any plants that are undesirable.

Bitter Roots

Later in Hebrews (12:15), the author says this: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many". Surely, the analogy with that verse isn't exact, yet somehow, that "bitter root" idea reminds me of those tenacious little bits of weed roots. "Bitter roots" in my own (or another person's) heart that "spring up" seemingly "out of nowhere" now and then, apparently laying low beneath the surface, ready to come and hinder growth. Or perhaps "bitter roots" within the "body of Christ" (which is more likely the actual meaning in the verse above) ... bitterness, judgment, blatant sinfulness that surface periodically. These "roots" can then entangle neighboring "plants". I purposely refrained from replanting some of the more seriously tangled plants, lest the tiny weed roots wrapped around them would grow out and entangle the surrounding "healthy" plants.

What about your own experience? Has your own (or a friend's) life or world been "turned upside down" lately? Are there areas in which you THOUGHT a bitter root had been "pulled out", only to see it resurface at a later date? Are there others in your immediate surroundings who have a "bitter root" entangling their heart, and it threatens to invade the "soil" of your own heart?

Master Gardener

Ponder those things if you wish. I pray that the Lord will minister to any areas that need His touch. He is the most tender, careful Gardener that I know. It may not be "comfortable" to be lifted from the ground, turned over, and have your "roots" examined and untangled. At the same time, getting free from roots that hold you back from growing fully into all He intends is a good thing. Having Him place you in fertile, weed free nutritious soil can cause more growth than you could have imagined.

As Jesus beckons, remember that you are a BRANCH ... He is the vine. If you belong to Him, you are grafted in, gaining nourishment from His root. If any foreign, invasive root tries to wrap its way around your heart, allow Him to tenderly separate it from you, and allow yourself to be "rooted and grounded" in His love.

While you're at it, if you or anyone you know is entangled with bitterness, judgment, sin and hopelessness, pray that the Master Gardener will do His amazing work. It may mean having the "world turned upside down", or maybe even require some "burning" purification. This much is for sure, it will be to make a way for the most healthy and abundant growth. I pray for His grace to work the best within us all ... you, His Church, and across this seemingly overgrown, oftentimes "weed infested" planet.

April 15, 2009

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