Rooting Your Heart in Transition
I’ve developed a strange but comforting relationship with a tree over the past few years. My tree lives nearby at the Botanical Gardens in a magical forest that is home to dozens of different tree species imported from around the world over the last 150 years. But this tree is quite special. Not only does it have broad, full branches reaching 50-60 feet high, but it also has roots sprawling outward from the trunk in every direction along the surface of the earth, reaching to embrace you until you can’t help but climb into its lumpy lap. Which I do quite regularly.
When I first began my roots ritual, I thought it was about homesickness. There’s nothing like an international move to uproot your sense of security! But over time, I realized homesickness was just one part of my disorientation. Nearly every area in my life was in some major transition: my father had recently passed away, my husband and I were going through the most painful and divisive season of our marriage, a major project I was working on had came to a close, a teammate was speaking hard truths about my leadership style, my ability to communicate well was masked in first grade level Spanish, and my body had become very unhappy with my stressful living and undiagnosed food allergies. And to top it off, my little brood of chicks were all in transition too… and looking to ME to help secure their world.
Somehow sitting among the roots of my tree gave me a concrete and tactile experience to give to words to what was happening internally. The branches of my life were no longer secure; I was longing to feel rooted.
Transition has a way of highlighting where our hearts are receiving our security, identity, and hope. Our relationships, our roles, our achievements, these are all good things— beautiful branches that give form, purpose and beauty to our lives. We are designed to expand, to grow, and to flourish in relationships, careers, communities, roles of influence, health, prosperity, and productivity. Branches are good!
But branches are not designed to become roots.
Unfortunately we don’t always recognize the subtle shift when we start to receive life from the branches until one of those branches is suddenly shaken loose or lopped off. So when lose our job, our identity as a competent, self-sufficient provider is stripped away. Or when the signs of aging begin to greet us each morning in the mirror, we realize how much identity we received from our outward appearance and youth.
And there, in the midst of the shaking, we are given an invitation to return to our tap-root. A tap-root is the main, predominant root from which a plant receives its nutrition and strength; all other smaller roots and the health of the whole plant come from this main root. Long-term life will not be found in the branches, it’s found in the Divine Tap Root.
This is not a simple or easy realignment. We are clingy people— clinging to the ‘branches’ in our lives for security: relationships, health, achievement, independence, beauty. When those major branches get pruned – we can suddenly feel like we are in a free-fall. We might even scramble on the way down to grab onto another branch. While those things help to support us in our upheaval, they, too will be limited in the life they can bring us. Not to mention that those branches will be pruned as well at some point, because every branch that bears fruit will be pruned eventually.
Pruning is not a warm, fuzzy experience. In our upheaval, we certainly don’t feel like we’re reconnecting to the Divine Tap-Root – we may not even feel like God is there at all. It’s only later that we see something significant was happening in the free fall and the desperate cries to heaven. It’s only later, as new crises come along, we see our hearts are more rooted where they were meant to root. We are no longer find ourselves climbing to the branches for our security and identity, and we feel much less threatened and undone by transition.
The branches become what they are meant to be — gifts to be treasured but not clung to for security.
And here’s good news… the Divine Tap Root will never, EVER be shaken. Not by declining health or cancer or cultural changes or bankruptcy or death or divorce or any other calamity that rocks our world. The Root of Jesse is always reaching out to enfold us into His comforting embrace.