Written by: Amy Dalke
We stepped off a plane in Santa Barbara on Friday afternoon to crisp weather, where the wind carried a breezy cool that Texas just hasn’t ever met. The air was so easy-going, and the floral scent so rich that I momentarily thought moving to Santa Barbara was next on my to-do list.
With little time to stop and smell flowers, Larry, Luke and I hopped into the electric blue, boxy, Ford rental car, and took off to Santa Ynez for Larry’s oldest daughter Lauren’s wedding.
We traveled over a mountain pathway en route to Santa Ynez, through the Los Padres National Forest; and the panoramic scenery was so awesome, I put my phone down. True story. Don’t look so shocked.
I stared out the passenger window the entire drive, resolved to capture the images so I could recall them later. (There was just ONCE that I picked up my phone to reply to a text. Which happened to be the ONE moment Larry chose to make a comment about how I should put my phone down and enjoy the scenery.) (I hate when things like that happen.)
Now, I am not scientifically inclined, and no one ever calls me to solicit answers to their nature questions. So as we drove through a rolling valley, it was surprising that I noticed the odd contrast between the lush green trees scattered across the plain, and the dehydrated, brown grass into which these trees were rooted.
I turned toward Larry, and asked, “If all that grass is dead, how are the trees’ leaves so green?”
Larry looked at me with sort of a baffled pride, like he wanted to pat me on the back for a) noticing nature principles at work and b) for thinking beyond its surface. (Neither of which happen often.) (I blame it on the ADD, along with a personal tendency to be somewhat shallow.)
Before I could form some baseless theory involving keywords I remember from seventh grade science, Larry replied that it all has to do with how the trees’ root systems draw water from nearby streams.
Made sense. In fact, my mind immediately clicked to Jeremiah 17:7:
“But 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.”
How awesome is that?
I thought about us tree-like, faith-people for the rest of that drive to Santa Ynez:
- Trees are dependent on nourishing water supply.
- If a tree has shallow roots, it’s more easily swayed, bent, or uprooted than a tree with deep roots.
- Sometimes my faith looks like shallow roots, nourished on the food of my current circumstances. When today’s rain is plentiful, and the fruit is abundant, I credit my own ability to produce fruit; and I see no need to reach beyond myself toward more substantial sustenance.
- We may produce some fruit by drinking from surface water (after all, trees with shallow roots do grow). And faith can surely be fed in weekly Sunday meals. But once-a-weekly fed faith grows shallow roots, and will ultimately die in drought.
- Trees that grow green amidst lifeless brown soil, have roots set down near a plentiful, continuous water supply. They also retain moisture from previous rain, and hold it within core seeds designed for such storage.
- Like a tree, the person of faith is continually nourished by a Truth which is unaffected and unaltered by today’s weather conditions.
- In times of great drought (trials of any kind), the faithful life, abundant and green, is drawn from a Source far richer than the soil of our own garden-like planting.
I’m not sure how a tree develops a strong root system.
But I am sure that the roots of faith are not automatically grown. Faith isn’t some fancy feeling fueled by church attendance or mission trips; nor is it a weak-minded acceptance of wishful thinking in the face of adversity. Neither is faith an emotional sense of calm that only Special Christians possess.
Yes, faith blooms the vibrant green of soul-deep peace on sturdy branches of truth. There are buds of joy along it’s branches, and grace covers it’s trunk in a mossy fashion.
But struggle always comes first.
Faith is born when adversity, pain, and storms force our roots to rush deep for greater sustenance. And when faith is developed over time, our roots grow stronger, our branches become more stout, and they fill out with ripe fruit.
For years, my own faith had shallow roots. Perhaps I thought preachers’ kids automatically inherited faith, or that faith was a one-time decision to believe in Jesus.
While I am extremely grateful for a legacy of faith passed down through my ancestors, I now know my own faith doesn’t grow from the roots they planted. My own faith cannot be sustained by the roots of another. Neither can yours.
Go water your faith this week. Get God’s truth into you, and allow it to sustain you through whatever drought you encounter. Sink your roots down deep into the soil of grace.