Wednesdays with Jillene: water your roots

Ever had one of those moments when you hear something for the first time and it was the perfect phrase you never knew you were missing? Mine was when a friend said to me, “Sounds like you watered your roots.”

For more than a year now, I’ve been thinking of the beauty contained in that short statement and the powerful imagery it conveys. And, I think, now is the perfect time to share it with you.

At the time I first heard the phrase, I had just returned home from a visit to NY filled with spending time with friends and family. And I was happy and refreshed. Even thought it was the first time my friend shared those words, I knew without a doubt she was right, on that weekend trip I had watered my roots.

Water your roots

I had to ask for more on what that meant. That phrase was something my friend’s mom would say in reference to making the four hour trip to visit her own childhood home. And when her children grew up and moved to different states with families of their own, it was what she would say when they  came home for a visit. They were watering their roots.

Stop and think about it for a moment, what does that mean for you: water your roots. At first I picture a Hallmark movie moment with an extended family gathered around an oversized dinning room table, laugher and smiles in extra supply. And while that may be part of what it means to water your roots, I think the meaning goes a lot deeper than that.

When it comes to plants, roots prove nourishment and stability so a plant can grow and produce. Roots are the unseen strength of a plant that allow what is seen to flourish, grow bigger and produce fruit/flowers. If you want good fruit, you need good roots. To grow up, you need to grow down.

Just look at the tree toppled over and you’ll often find shallow or damaged roots. See a withered plant and you’re actually seeing roots that were scorched or inadequate for the job of sustaining growth. See a healthy tree you’re seeing a healthy, growing root system.

Water your roots.

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

“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.”

Jeremiah 17 contrasts a bush in the wastelands and a tree planted by the water, the difference between trusting in the strength of man’s flesh verses trusting in the Lord. As it works through, the analogy goes as you can imagine: Trusting in the strength of man = destitution and desolation. Trusting in the Lord = security and fruitfulness.  Emphatically described here as cursed and blessed.

The difference? Where the bush and tree are planted affects how their roots are watered. The bush (symbolizing trusting in the flesh) is planted in the wilderness, with only dry soil to dray upon. In stark contrast, the tree (symbolizing trusting in the Lord) is securely planted by the stream with a constant source of water.

While a bush or a tree does not have much choice where it is planted and from where it draws water, we on the other hand, we do have a choice. See, there are the roots of our lives that are given us, our heritage, upbringing and the like and there are the roots we put down in the places we choose to “live.” The word used in verse 8 to describe the man who trusts in the Lord as a tree I by the water could also be translated, “transplanted.

Where are you planted? In what do you put your trust? These verses in Jeremiah bring home an important truth, times of plenty and times of scarcity are going to come our way. Where we are planted makes all the difference. Why? Not because being planted by the river means that hard times will never come. Nope, the scripture doesn’t say that. Not because being planted in the wasteland never has any times of prosperity. Nope, the scripture doesn’t say that either. In fact, the scripture makes it evident that times of plenty and times of want will arise no matter where you’re planted. So again, why does it matter where we are planted?

What you are planted in, you soak up.

What you soak up, you will grow.

What you grow, you produce.

Planted in the dry wasteland and no matter what happens around you are likely to still feel dry, brittle, and insecure. Planted by the water and even in times of hardship you will have stored up the necessary reserves to withstand the heat and drought.

There are so many pieces to these verses in Jeremiah that speak deeply to me, I’ve written about them  before, but one of the pieces that I love because it convicts me deeply is that the tree planted by the water needs to send out its roots into the stream. It isn’t enough to be merely planted in the right place, to thrive the tree has some work to do to support the nourishment of a growing tree, create a network of support, and create stores to withstand drought, heat and even the long-cold of winter.

The roots of trees seek water. What are you doing to water your roots?

Because while you grow your roots in a particular place you get to choose where to be planted. As much as we like to think we can control where we are planted by controlling the temporal: the community in which we live, the jobs we have, the hobbies/habits we cultivate… those aren’t what we’re planted in.  We really have to stop on that for a moment because it is easy to deceive ourselves on this matter. Those are all things that enrich or add to our lives, but they aren’t where we’re planted.

The events of the last few weeks have shown us the heart of the matter by showing us the matters of our heart. In the stripping away of most of our normal routines, comfort mechanisms, and even sense of security, we may find we feel exposed and insecure. The reality is God may be revealing that we have been trusting in the wrong things, the things of this world, of our own making, the temporal things of our identity for our security and strength. If that’s you, it isn’t the end of the world. Now is the perfect time repent of the ways you use the things of this world as security instead of trust in the Lord.

Even in this tough time, God can draw you closer and make you more like Himself. So we need to be honest with how this global crisis has affected you. Do you feel desolate in the wastelands or have you found you are secure because your roots are in deep the stream?

Water your roots.

Make an intentional choice to soak in what is helpful, remember where your planted, in whom you trust. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This is a critical time for each of us to guard our hearts from attack

So, how do you water your roots in a time when so many activities have been put on the “not now list?” What do you do to guard your heart and keep your mind centered on what is true during these trying times? Share them, maybe you’ll bless a fellow sister or brother in Christ!

In 2014, I offered these points and even now as life has changed so much, they still stand as ways to water your roots. 

-Study the scriptures, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you.
-Join (or start) a small group to encourage and engage scripture together.
-Participate in worship and actively listen to solid teaching.
-Seek an “older brother or sister” in the faith to walk this journey with you.
-Live out your faith. This isn’t a class with a test of knowledge but a life to be lived!


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