So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. I John 4:16.
When we moved into our house over twenty years ago, there were two live oak trees growing in our backyard. Now, there is only one. Within the first few years, one of the trees stopped thriving. It slowly turned into a stalk of bare branches. Dried shriveled leaves dropped to the ground. On the other hand, a few feet away, its brother tree grew taller and wider each year.
Same yard. Two similar trees. Two different outcomes. What’s the difference?
Simply put, the roots.
The skinny trunked tree yielded easily to pressure. It uprooted easily. A slight push tipped it over revealing a nestled circle of untangled tendrils. The tree’s roots had never branched out, grown wider, deeper or stronger. They had stayed in a small, malnourished, weak ball. By not unfolding and reaching out, the tree had failed to thrive. It died. It’s as if the tree decided to keep to itself and try to grow on its own without yielding to the soil around it. Instead of reaching out for nutrients, it stayed closed off and isolated. It was planted, but not rooted. By not digging deep into the soil around it, it starved itself to death.
The same is true for me. Many times in my life I have refused the nourishing work of the Lord in my life. I have deemed circumstances around me too hard and therefore too difficult reach into and use for my good. Like my stubborn tree, instead of unfurling my spiritual roots I stay wadded up and closed off muttering, “Why me? Why now?” I have allowed my circumstances to keep me from trusting God’s love weakening me spiritually like a tree slowly drying up from lack of nourishment.
However, the other tree in my yard is tall and wide with a thick trunk and expansive branches. In spite of being struck by lightning and ripped open by a hurricane, it has thrived. Firmly planted in our backyard, it has become a massive oak tree. It’s as if this tree decided to abide in the yard. It reached out its roots and found the nutrients it needed in the soil around it. The second tree went beyond planting and became rooted. By opening itself up to the surrounding water and soil, it chose to live abundantly.
I am grateful for a God who doesn’t give up on me. He doesn’t allow me to stay in a root ball like my tree. He is a good gardener. Unlike me, He would have known my tree needed to have its roots unwound and released from its tight tangle. You see, God gently takes the hard circumstances of my life and uses them to make me spiritually stronger over time. Gradually, the oak tree that was struck by lightning and shaken by a hurricane has grown into an amazing tree with low thick branches and thin high expansive ones creating a home to birds and squirrels and welcomed shade for our yard.
So, what about us? What kind of tree are we? Are we abiding in the soil of God’s love and His word, or are we trying to make it on our own? Have we reached out for the life-giving source of God through His word or are we staying too far away to receive the nourishment we need to face the struggles life brings us? Are we letting our roots of faith grow deep so we are resilient when the storms of life swirl around us? Or, will we topple over when we feel pressure because we haven’t untangled our roots and grounded ourselves in truth? Are we convinced of God’s love for us no matter what?
I John 4:13-16 emphasizes our need to abide in God. Like trees immersing their roots deep into the soil, we need to immerse ourselves in God’s love through the truth of His word. The deeper we bury ourselves in the love of our Savior the stronger we become. The apostle Paul knew this truth when he stated in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separated us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
My friends, don’t let yourselves remain tangled up in life’s worries like my skinny tree. Open your heart wide to the love of God. Reach out and dig deep into the truth of His unfailing love. Abide in that truth. Stay there even in hard circumstances. Let the truth of His love nourish your soul helping you grow strong in faith and love like the massive oak tree in my yard.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.