Staying rooted in the faith

(With inspiration from a recent devotional post by Monica La Rose)

It’s been a rough spring.

Sometimes you have to think – when DID this situation begin? How long have we essentially been stuck in our houses? When is the last time I was able to go to church? Hang out with my friends? Drive to see and embrace family members?

It seems so long ago but mid March is the answer.

For some folks unfortunately it’s been - when did I lose my job? How long until I can go back? CAN I go back to my old job? What am I going to do for the future? All this in a span of just weeks.

Schools closed. Stores closed. We can perhaps giggle a little about liquor stores closing but yes, them too. No eating in restaurants. No going to the movies. No shopping excursions, maybe just to take our minds off of THIS.

There’s the old line about “the perfect storm.” That’s when different elements all come together at once or at one spot to overwhelm a ship at sea – or a person anywhere. We’ve been living the perfect storm, almost the unthinkable, for the last two months now.

When will it end? To make matters worse – no one really knows. Those countless predictions you’ve read about or seen on TV? Adopt the old advice – believe it when it happens.

Even the weather has seemed to conspire against us. It’s been a rather moist spring and yes, SNOW in MAY. FREEZES in MAY. Wilted flowers and newly planted vegetable plants that couldn’t be protected, now drooping and dead. Spring 2020 has indeed been that most perfect of storms.

And the wind – we’ve had plenty of strong breezes in recent days. As you look out a window while barricaded in your home you’ve seen branches swaying back and forth, bending and twisting. It seems that nothing can withstand this regular battering of the world – and our spirits.

And yet, while looking out that window, the answer for our future was right there in front of us.

Not the branches, moving to and fro, sometimes breaking and falling to the ground. Constantly tossed about, like many of our emotions in recent times.

Instead consider – the trunk.

Unmoving. Unbowed. Solid. Steady.

With roots buried deep in the soil that tree isn’t going anywhere, withstanding all the weather Mother Nature has to offer. And the tree continues to grow year after year, tree ring after tree ring, to remember each season.

Call that tree a guide to life. Make your faith like that tree.

The Bible is filled with references to trees and their connection to our God…

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,  and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” – Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

The beginning of the very first Psalm – and there are 150 of those. The comparison with the tree starts off the series.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water  that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;  its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought  and never fails to bear fruit.”
– Jeremiah 17:8 NIV

Jeremiah was writing to the exiled Jews living in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem. Those people also went through a perfect storm, many of whom were living in despair and wondering when this would end. Sound at least a little familiar?

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV

Paul was talking to the newly formed church in Ephesus. In their new belief those people were buffeted not by weather but by their unbelieving neighbors and the world in general. Their roots were still shallow – we have had the experience of time and knowledge while they were only just starting to grow.

But of course living in our world today has its own challenges. This virus situation is only the latest, and there will be more in the future. We are like trees hit by blizzards in winter, by soggy conditions in spring, by drought and excessive heat in summer, and by cold temperatures in autumn.

And yet the tree with deep roots, planted in good soil, is the tree that thrives no matter the weather, no matter the situation. The Word is that good soil, always feeding and maintaining the tree.

Think it’s too late to sink those roots, to bear good fruit?

Jesus told a curious parable in Luke 13, not one of those we hear frequently…

“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” - Luke 13:6-9 NIV

It’s interesting that there is no resolution to this parable; Luke jumps to another story in the next verse. We all wonder – what happened to that fig tree?

Perhaps the moral here is the chance to restore that struggling tree. The gardener in the vineyard wanted another try at getting the tree to bear some figs so he pleaded with the owner to allow him the chance. He would put in some work, add some nutrients and was confident that he could make the tree productive.

Perhaps it’s the same way with us. When tough times come and our tree seems to wither, it’s tempting for someone to just grab an axe and get rid of the tree. But the Lord is there with love and forgiveness, nutrients needed to resurrect our own tree.

By all accounts this current “situation” of ours will continue for many weeks or months to come. Kids may not go back to school for quite a while. Restaurants will have to continue surviving on takeout and delivery orders. Haircuts will…well…could we please just get a haircut again? It’s a HAIRCUT. We’ll even wear a mask.

Let us hope that political leaders will make good prudent decisions to allow life to slowly open up again as scientists and researchers come up with solutions to deal with this insidious virus. May wisdom bless all of them.

In the meantime don’t allow yourself to be like branches rocked up and down or broken by winds and rain and weather. Instead be like the trunk of that tree, stable and at peace knowing that your roots in the faith are strong, that the good soil of the Word is your ultimate strength. If you’re struggling or feel inadequate, allow the Savior to feed your tree and make it bloom again.

And this crisis? Like so many others, this too shall pass…

From George Churchgoer