Jesus often spoke in metaphor through parables, desiring those listening to be exposed to a different way of seeing the world. Wanting them to question the way God had been understood in the past and now. Wanting those listening to open their minds to the new thing God was doing, in which God could not be contained in the safe, religious, predictable box so many placed God in.
I was chatting with my sister about Jesus’ use of parables and she stated, “It’s like Christ wanted his listeners to really see the world for the first time. His metaphors and parables were a part of their everyday lives, which almost required them to start seeing the kingdom of God in the everyday. To start seeing God in their everyday. That God was not the god of religion at all, but the God of life. Of everyday life.”
After studying Jesus’ parable of the sower with the seed (Matthew 13) and looking at what it means to be rooted in God, two concepts jumped out to me. First, someone may be rooted in God while allowing other desires to take root in their heart as well, finding themselves being pulled between two areas of their life. We have great potential to have deep, good roots right next to self-centered thorns. And one will always win.
Do you have extra roots in your heart-soil that might be pulling your attention away from the love God has for you and the purpose God has gifted you with?
This parable also reminded me of my birthday just after moving to Humboldt nine years ago. My husband, Jason, bought me my first apple tree. Small, already budding, roots healthily spread out in her black, plastic pot with plenty of room to grow. However, because we didn’t know how long we would stay in one home, I selfishly waited to plant her. A few years later, we moved from Arcata to rent in Eureka before we bought our first home in Blue Lake. Six years after receiving her, my little tree had moved from home to home in her black, plastic pot.
I dug out good earth, layering it with fertilizer. Taking sharp scissors, I cut into her home for the past 6 years, carefully dropping her into her new home, and filled the soil in around her. She stayed in that place for over a year with a couple leaves sprouting here and there, but no new buds.
What I learned was my little tree had become root-bound, never being able to put real roots down into the soil. Her roots would stay tightly wound around herself and she would eventually die in the same place as I had found her, no matter the amount of good fertilizer, sunshine, love, and water I would give.
I wonder how many of us Christians find ourselves root-bound, so sure of our religious traditions and understanding of the Bible and who God is that we’ve wrapped ourselves tightly into a ball, not allowing anything new to come through? How many of us in the American church are root-bound, not able to open up and release our roots to the Spirit of God because we’re so sure of our institutional systems or our right beliefs? How many of us are root-bound, feeling like we’re rooted in the right churchy and Christian things, but our knotted roots are wrapped not allowing space for others in who might not fit into our nice, put-together boxes?,
To be rooted in Jesus is to be rooted in Love. Love received and Love given. When there are extra roots of dissatisfaction, of greed, of convenience, of waste, Love and compassion can be choked out. When your roots are bound tightly together, there is no space to give or receive Love and compassion.
My hope is we will be willing to take a hard look at any extra roots needing removal and any ways we might be root-bound, whether we believe in God or not. Instead, let’s be rooted in Love and compassion, together.
Bethany Cseh is co-pastor of Catalyst Church in Arcata.