Note: This blog was originally published several years ago. However, as I struggle to find the words to convey hope and redemption through a memoir, my thoughts drift back to the posts I wrote during another season in my life. Reading this post helped me remember the importance of being firmly planted in Christ. The thoughts seem as relevant today as they were years ago.
Several years ago, my father-in-law gave me a “money tree” plant which has five interwoven trunks. At the time, he had no idea that I am the world’s worst at keeping plants alive. Because the tree was a gift, I was determined to do all I could to keep this tiny tree alive. Initially, I was diligent about watering the tiny tree and ensuring it had the perfect amount of light to grow. Then life got in the way. The tree sat unattended for over a month on the window ledge in the kitchen. A friend asked me if I wanted to throw it away because it looked dead. I almost said yes, but then I remembered my resolve to keep the tree alive. Upon closer examination, I saw a tiny bit of green in the trunk of the tree. It was still alive! Instead of throwing it away, I put it in a bigger pot with new soil and prayed it would survive. It did survive, but my pattern of periodic neglect took its toll.
Although the tree is still alive, 3 of the five trunks withered and died because I did not provide the proper care.
I remember sitting on the couch looking at the yellowing leaves and the withered trunk thinking, “I need to get another pot and replant it.” By the next morning, life got in the way, and I forgot. I often forgot to water the tree, or sometimes I think I overwatered it. I replanted it twice. Each time when I lifted the trunk from the pot, I threw away the dead, hollow trunks. Both times, I noticed that the roots on the remaining trunks were underdeveloped.
The new soil was rich in nutrients, so the remaining trunks flourished. However, the trunks were not strong enough to carry the weight of the leaves, so I placed support in the pot. Each time I replanted it, I took excellent care of the plant for a few weeks, sometimes for months. The remaining trunks were small, but eventually, they no longer needed the external support to stand straight. What they do need is rich soil, water, and just the right amount of sun.
I realized that my connection to God through Christ was similar to my care of the tree.
I received the gift of salvation from my heavenly Father when I accepted Christ. I vowed to take care of the gift so it would grow. However, I did not realize how to take care of the gift. My knowledge was distorted and at best superficial. The roots of my faith were shallow and easily swayed by the temptations of the world. I “looked” good on the outside, but my soul was slowly withering. Just when I felt I had “killed” the gift, God dramatically intervened letting me know that he saw the tiny piece of my heart that was still beating for him.
God replanted me in rich soil.
Once again, I vowed to allow the gift to take root. I prayed, studied and surrounded myself with those that were deeply rooted in Christ. My faith grew, my roots became stronger, but life got in the way. I forgot to seek God when trials struck. I became angry when I could not do the right thing. I no longer nourished my faith and resented those who tried to help me. The battle between the world and God ripped my soul in half. The once rich soil became a wasteland. I struggled to find strength in the barren soil. I sought comfort in worldly pleasures without regard for the gift I had vowed to care for. Soon the once strong roots began to wither. I thought I could manage to have both dead wood (sin) and strong roots (Christ). Nothing could be further from the truth.
I had to build a stronger root system.
I could not stand on my strength and did not wholly trust the strength that comes through Christ. During this season, I relied on friends, family and my church family to keep me from falling. When I began to slip, they were there to catch me and prop me back up by pointing me back to the source. (God). Eventually, my roots grew deep and strong. I trusted the promises that were once just words on a page. I was now rooted in Christ. When trials come, I can resist temptation because I am rooted in Christ. When I falter, his strength sustains me. For the first time in my life I understood what Paul meant when he wrote:
Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him. Colossians 2:6-7
The key is to live in Christ. Not outside admiring Him, but truly living in Christ and through Christ. That is the only way to have roots deep enough to withstand the world’s temptations. When I falter or fall, being rooted in Christ allows me to not only experience forgiveness but to grow and move forward.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
Living in him requires diligence, faith, prayer, and repentance. Just like my tree, my roots grow strong when I keep the soil rich, watered and just the right amount of the SON. The seed was planted the day I accepted Christ. How much it flourishes depends on how I take care of the seed.