The lowest branch was always just out of reach as I stood on the ground. But, with just a little effort, thanks to my gymnastics, I hoisted myself up into the tree and quickly climbed to the top. It was one of my favorite spots–the top of Mamaw and Papaw’s front yard apple tree. Situated on a county highway, the traffic was steady. While only 15 feet up in the air, I felt like I was on top of the world. Summertime at my grandparent’s house was always a favorite. In addition to frequent family trips, while growing up, my sisters and I would each take our own week of the summer and spend it down on the farm. There was an apple tree to climb, cows to feed, a pond to fish in, soil to till, gardens to tend to, strawberry jam to make, green beans to break, cousins to play with, trash to burn, corn-on-the-cob to eat, and homemade ice cream to enjoy.
I come from a family of farmers and gardeners. It’s no wonder summer is my favorite season! Summer meant all sorts of goodies from the garden…the kind of goodies you can’t seem to savor long enough when you take a bite. And yet, there was more to it than the taste of warm juice from a strawberry straight from the patch. There was more to it than the melted butter running down your chin as you indulged in a fresh ear of corn from Papaw’s garden.
There was more to it…and it was just below the surface.
Whether it’s a sturdy oak tree, a tiny little flower, or the produce of a southern Indiana garden, the livelihood of each is determined by the condition of what’s below the surface. What you see above is determined by what is found below. The same is true for you and me.
Last September I attended a two-day women’s conference with Lysa TerKeurst from Proverbs 31 Ministries. The first night she shared a story about a conversation she had with a guy cutting down what appeared to be a perfectly good tree. Above ground it looked like a healthy, thriving tree. The problem? The roots were shallow. A shallow root system meant that one strong storm or gust of intense wind and the tree was going to break under the pressure. As she shared about the prodding to dig her roots deep, I instantly began to sense the Spirit’s movement within my own heart. “Leah, we’ve spent time healing your roots. Now it’s time to dig deep. Dig deep with me and bury your roots.”
When healthy, roots are designed to be an anchor, a protector, and a provider, each serving a significant purpose. In order to have healthy roots, though, we need to make sure we have the right soil. As much as I want to plant one, a saguaro cactus (which I love) will not take well to the soil and climate here in Ohio. The desert parts of Arizona, absolutely, but not here. The ability to withstand the storms or intense wind in life without breaking under pressure starts with cultivating the right soil and climate in your heart. Without the right soil, roots can’t take hold and grow. Without roots we crumble.
One of the reasons I love reading the Gospels is because Jesus had a knack for telling stories. In Luke 8 we find Him with a crowd of people from many different towns that were eager to listen. It was a perfect opportunity to tell a story.
5“A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”…11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” (Luke 8:5-15, NLT)
As you read this story, where did you see yourself? If you look underneath the surface, what kind of soil will you discover? Oh how I wish I could say that, after hearing the Spirit whisper on my heart the call to dig deeper, the past seven and a half months have been full of consistent deep growth. They haven’t been, though. Has there been growth? Yes, by God’s grace there has been. But, I struggle with having some rocky soil. I don’t always cling to God’s Word like I should. I don’t always let it saturate me like I should. Many times I want to see the crop now rather than patiently produce. The problem is, if the ground is too rocky and my roots aren’t deep, growth will be hindered. I will be much more likely to break under pressure.
My mind continues to go back to my time on the farm during the summer. Whether it was a flower bed, the garden, or the field, Papaw was always working the land. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sound of his tiller as he took to his garden, working the ground, preparing the soil, removing the rocks. I even remember getting to ride, standing between the handle bars, as he moved his way up and down the rows. He knew that in order for the seeds to take, for the roots to develop, and the crop to grow, the soil had to be ready. At the time I was just excited for the ride. Now I can appreciate the lesson.
As I reflect, the Holy Spirit continues to say, “Let’s dig deep and bury your roots. I need you to be ready.” Perhaps He’s saying the same to you. Take some time to identify the condition of what’s underneath and know that I am praying for you as you do. May you be encouraged as God works in the soil of your heart and you take your roots deep.
Join me for the next post in this series as we dig deeper into the richness of the good soil, looking at where our roots will thrive most and why.