Go to the roots.
God put this little aphorism on my mind a few weeks ago in spiritual direction. Up to this point, the meaning of this phrase was unclear to me. In fact, even now I don’t think I’ve started to grasp its full wisdom.
So what does it mean to go to the roots? Let’s explore this phrase in greater depth.
Roots in Biology
Firstly, plants fall under the umbrella of Biology, one of my favorite subjects. As many of us know, plants require a few basic things in order to survive: nutrients, water, and light. Specifically, nutrients and water are brought into the plant through the roots. The roots, then, provide and maintain life.
Also, the roots anchor a plant into its foundation. When the roots go deep enough, the plant will not be torn up from the soil even in the most extreme forms of weather.
So, the roots are the means of life and support.
Roots in Scripture
The next step on our journey is in Sacred Scripture. Plants come up multiple times throughout the Bible, and Jesus speaks of them frequently in his parables as an analogy for the human condition. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that St. Paul tells us “so, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him, and built upon him…” (Col 2:6-7).
What does it mean to be rooted in God? When we use “rooted” in this way, are we not saying that we should be firmly planted in the unchanging, eternal foundation who is Jesus? And if we are planted in Him, is He not the source of life just as the roots are the source of life for a plant?
Scripture instructs us to be planted in God. If we are to be planted in God, then an understanding of God (no matter how small) is necessary. Which leads me to the question:
Who is God?
By asking this, I don’t mean to sound prideful. And I don’t mean to say that the entirety of God can be limited to fit mere human understanding. Rather, I wonder if we were to select a single word to describe God, what would it be? Who is He?
My answer to this question is “love”. God is love. This fact is very evident throughout salvation history. From Genesis to Revelation, God makes it clear that He isn’t going anywhere.
Sometimes I wonder why the writers of the New Testament were so obsessed with love. But, then I am reminded, that their task is to write about God. They could not write about God without writing about love. If they had, they would have separated God from His very nature.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
God is love. I am certain that most of us have heard this little phrase repeatedly. The problem is, that when we hear something over and over again, it loses its power. It becomes an impersonal fact, rather than an accepted truth. And this must be a truth we accept if we are to live as Christ commands.
But accepting this truth can be difficult and uncomfortable. Why? Because it isn’t easy to open ourselves to receive a gift that is so freely given. Especially since many of us have been badly hurt in the past by people who claim to have our best interests in mind.
But, does this discomfort give us a reason to turn away from love? I would argue that it doesn’t, especially not when it comes to our relationship with God. Because God is love, if we were to ask God not to love us, we would be asking Him not to be Himself. How unfair of a request. Just imagine praying one evening and saying “Hey God! Can You stop being You for a while?”.
Now I say this from the perspective of someone who finds loving and accepting love to be extremely challenging. I am independent, introverted, and respond to nearly every life situation with a heavy dose of sarcasm. I shy away from love, and get really uncomfortable when I hear those three little words “I love you”. But, God has put it on my heart lately that it is time for this to change.
So, for those of us who struggle with accepting love, I offer the same advice that my Spiritual Director offered me:
1. Show Love: Showing love to others softens our hearts to receiving love. By showing love, we foster the humility necessary to receive love. So, perhaps we could all spend five minutes in prayer in the morning asking God how we can show love that day, or researching the Five Love Languages and putting them into practice
2. Be Thankful: Even if we are not in a particularly grateful mood, we must give thanks. To be thankful, means to recognize that we are blessed. If we are able to give thanks for the physical, material gifts we receive, how much more will we be able to give thanks to God for the love He pours out constantly! Let’s each commit to uttering at least three, genuine “thank you’s” in a day.
3. Be Vulnerable: Vulnerability is always necessary when it comes to receiving Love. We cannot sit in our self-constructed fortresses and throw love to people on the other side of the gates. We must embrace each other on a personal level, and that means stepping out of the comfort zone. It is easiest to be vulnerable in prayer, for our God will never judge us as man does. To grow in vulnerability, then, we must grow in prayer. Let’s each find a time to quietly sit in the presence of God every day.
It is God’s deepest desire that we each have an intimate relationship with Him, the Source and Summit of all love. So let us satisfy the desire of our God’s heart, and open ourselves to accepting His loving embrace.