I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
Most of us have seen a sidewalk mistreated by the roots of a tree; as it grows the concrete buckles and cracks and another contractor finds gainful employment. The power to do such damage is one of the unsung miracles of trees (a mature Oak can pump 50 gallons of water a day out of the ground). The root structures of most trees are incredibly powerful, tough and extremely efficient at transporting nutrients and water from the ground to the highest branches. Roots are crucial for healthy growth and act as an anchor for the tree in extreme weather. As believers we also must have strong roots that dig deep into the soil of God’s love so we can weather the storms of a fallen world.
There are several trees near our stream whose roots have been exposed by the slow erosion of soil by the water flowing in its course. The exposed parts of the roots are just a fraction of the actual length and breadth of the total root system. It is curious that the part of the tree that makes it grow and gives it stability is the one that is least seen by most observers. This leads me to think that some of the most important ways for us to stay connected with the life of God take place where others do not see.
The life that Paul is praying for the Ephesians is a life that is “rooted and established in love” because having roots is not the same as being established. In order for us to be established trees, we must be difficult to uproot. This can only happen if the roots sink deep and wide and draw the life-giving water to the life that others see. Trees are steadfast in this regard, growing their roots slowly but firmly to reach the source.
The roots are like the various spiritual disciplines – meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship & celebration – reaching into the depths of God’s immeasurable mercy and grace. They are the means by which the Holy Spirit flows from Heaven into our branches to produce good fruit. They are the strong ties to the soil of God’s love that hold us fast when the winds buffet and rages. A tree by itself does not produce fruit; a tree that is receiving all the nutrients it needs will produce fruit. If we want to produce fruit, we have to sink the roots.
In our world, we have been told to take care of the outside so people will like what they see. In another of God’s reversals of conventional wisdom, He has told us to develop the inner life so that it informs and transforms the outer. So many have beautiful looking trees, with lush branches and thick trunks, but the slightest wind will uproot them. Others have plentiful fruit at first glance, but it is only decorative and has nothing to nourish those who might try to eat what is offered.
Let me ask you a question: when you have just bitten into a juicy, flavorful apple, do you wonder if the tree it came from is attractive or impressive? Probably not. More than likely you pined at the possibility of having a tree like the one your apple came from in your back yard. What makes a tree a blessing to others is its ability to produce good fruit season after season.
As Christians we do not grow fruit on our branches for our own sake – no tree does. We sink roots deep, grow our branches strong and thicken up our trunk to hold fruit out to those who need to eat. It is interesting to note that each of the disciplines require a certain characteristic – stillness. We must be still by the stream and sink our roots deep to allow God’s love to flow through us, producing fruit in its season for a hungry world.