At church on Sunday, the lesson talked about how we can grow strong roots. The teacher had a picture of a tree with small roots and one with large roots.
Now, with a horticulture background, I started to think about what would cause a weak root system. The first thing I thought of is girdling roots. These occur when a tree starts out in a container. The roots are often forced to grow in a circle, without room to expand. If the tree is planted with these circling roots, instead of growing out, they continue to follow the original circular pattern. As the tree grows larger, the roots can actually girdle the tree and cause the tree to be unhealthy and even die.
I once saw a row of trees. All of them were planted in the same area with the same care, but several of them died over time in spite of being a good fit for the area. I suspected it might be a case of girdling roots. How do you prevent the problem? When you plant the tree, wash the roots off and prune back any growth in a circular pattern that could later girdle the tree. Although harder, you can also take care of the problem after planting by inspecting the roots next to the trunk of the tree.
There’s the horticulture lesson, here’s the life lesson.
I have girdling roots in my life. I have ways of thinking that worked when I was younger, but as I grow they become limiting and can suffocate me. If I want a strong root system, I need to inspect my roots and get rid of the ones that can girdle me. For me, these are things like relying on my own strength to do everything that needs to get done, instead of relying on God. It’s checking things off a to-do list instead of paying attention to what is really important in my life. It’s pride, and my favorite guilty pleasures, and all the times that I know better. Girdling roots aren’t foreign enemies: they are things on the inside that can still tear us down.
If I want a strong foundation, a strong root system, identifying how I can improve my thought patterns to rely more completely on God allows me to prune my root system and start growing roots that are healthy and larger.
If you want a bonus analogy, trees also grow poorly when planted in a lawn. The lawn competes with the tree, and the tree is stunted. Getting rid of the lawn around the roots of the tree allows the tree to grow taller. Distractions also crowd out spiritual growth.
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