There's this tree in my front yard that gives me fits several times a year. It leans. No, it never breaks or stops growing . . . it just leans. It's attractive, deep green, nicely shaped, and annually bears fragrant blossoms. But let a good, healthy gust give it a shove—and over it goes. Like, fast.
It happened today. Right now the thing is tilted on about a forty-five degree angle towards the north. Stake and all, over it went. Seems such a shame this good-looking, charming tree can't hold its own. Take away the support ropes and it's only a matter of time . . . no match against the invisible slugger with a wild haymaker. Unless I lift it up, it will stay down for the full count. Every time.
Why? Well, in layman's language, it's top-heavy. Lots of leafy branches and heavy foliage above ground (which all appreciate and enjoy), but down underneath, weak roots. Little shoots here and there, reaching out for water and nutrients . . . but insufficient to support the fast-growing stuff up above. And the thing doesn't have sense enough to lay back on the new leaves until the roots catch up!
So out I go in the morning to bring it back up straight. I'll talk to it, give it a piece of my mind I can't afford to lose, and with a jerk, tell it to "straighten up." But let another blustery bully come roarin' out of his corner and I'll guarantee you it will fall victim to a sucker punch before the third round.
If nothing else, that overgrown, ornery perennial has provided me with an object lesson I can't ignore any longer: Strong roots stabilize growth. If that's true of trees it is certainly crucial for Christians. Roots strengthen and support us against the prevailing winds of persuasion. When the mind-bending gales attack without warning, it's the network of solid roots that holds us firm and keeps us straight. Beautiful branches and lacy leaves, no matter how attractive, fail to fortify us as the velocity increases. It takes roots, stubborn, deep, powerful roots, to keep us standing.
That explains why the Savior said what He did about the plant that withered. It had a root problem (Mark 4:6), so it couldn't handle the blistering rays of the sun. And why Paul's prayer for those young, energetic Ephesian believers included the thought of "being rooted and grounded" (Ephesians 3:17). And why the apostle urged the Colossian Christians to be "firmly rooted . . . built up . . . and established" in their faith (Colossians 2:7). Strong roots stabilize growth. That's the reason they are so very important. Without them we lean and sometimes snap.
But before you get excited about whipping up a strong set of roots, better remember this: It takes time. There's no instant route to roots. And it isn't fun 'n' games either. It's hard work. Nor is it a high-profile process. Nobody spends much time digging around a tree trunk, admiring: "What neat roots you have!" No, the stronger and deeper the roots, the less visible they are. The less noticed.
Mark it down—there won't be a seminar next week that promises "Strong roots in five days or your money back." The process is slow. Neither will there ever be a lot of noise and smoke surrounding their growth. The process is silent. But in the long run the final product will be irreplaceable . . . invaluable.
If you're looking for a showy, shallow, get-up-there-quick kind of growth, then I've got the answer. Drop by soon and I'll sell you a perfect specimen—ropes and all.