He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that
the wind drives away.
Psalm 1:3-4 (ESV)
A Lush Life Is Lived By The Roots
There are so many metaphors in the Scriptures that help us imagine, and image into reality, the good life we all seek.
For me, the image of the tree, planted by streams of water, settled deep in the soils of my mind years ago when I first read it. There is a first time for everything, and I remember the feeling I had when I read “He is like a tree, planted by streams of water….”
I felt the coolness of water, bubbling in a pristine stream on a mild, breezy, sunny day.
I felt the bark of a thin, but strong tree, rough to the touch but smooth for its kind.
I felt the lush texture of the leaves of the tree, pregnant with the water it was drinking in the unseen places, underground.
And I remember thinking, “That’s the life I want, Lord.”
What no one told me back then was that most of my life, I would live “in the roots,” rather than “in the leaves.”
In other words, I might crave the upper and outward results for my own benefit and the benefit of others. I might desire to curate the branches and prune the shape of the flourishing canopy for the sake of my own validation and the accolades of others.
But to have a lush, healthy life, I would have to devote my attention to the curation of the roots and the resources that feed them with my best energies.
I would have to live in, and learn to love, the darkness. The smothering soil is the air the roots breathe, and the mud is where it’s drink is found.
What everyone sees matters, and a tree does indeed grow down as well as up. Sunlight matters for the plant as much as water, and the roots below mimic the roots above that we call branches – as the whole symbiotic process makes up the verdant life of the tree.
But I feel my roots today. I feel the need for water. I feel the need to stretch my thin, virtually invisible feeders into God’s good world to find what I need.
The Spirit helps me, but that is my task.
I want the leaves of my life to be lush, and thick, and green, and full. I want a robust presence in the world, where others can find inspiration and encouragement. But deep down, I know, the roots are where I will need to live today if I want the flourishing above the surface.
My tap root will anchor me, along with the other roots around it, in faith, in hope, and in love. They will draw from the enriched ground that lies by the “streams of living water” (John 7:38).
And as the worries and cares of this life confront me, and drier, harsher seasons come, my feeder roots will continue to search and search for the nutrients and water I need.
I will worship – and I will do so in the most hidden place I can find.
To become the tree you see, you have to be committed to the roots you don’t.
And that, that, is the work of love that God is doing in the Christian – doing in you and I – today.
Jesus, a tree seems so simple, and yet is a complex of mysteries known only to You and ongoingly discovered by the scientists who continue to be delighted by their bark-clothed majesty. Would you make the ecosystem of my heart lush with life, and give me the courage to face the challenges in the darkness, the soil, the rock that lies underneath?
I choose to live by the streams of friendship with You, Jesus; there is no better way,
Join the email list here for weekly encouragements and resources for worship and spiritual formation.