The stability of any plant is contingent on healthy and strong roots. Some plants have a lateral root system made up of wide spreading roots, nearer the surface; others have a deep central taproot that has a network of roots all along its shaft.
A tree that has a taproot is one of few plants that are found thriving in hardened soils such as clay—which, by the way, is rich in nutrients bound too tightly for most plants to utilize. As the tree begins to develop, its tiny root hairs push down and through the compacted soil, penetrating the clay, absorbing the nutrients, and as it grows becomes solidly anchored.
I was reminded of root systems when reading Suffering and the Courage of God by Robert Norris (Weavings XVII, 5, p.12).
“[Jesus] was not standing passively accepting abuse, but nobly, without fear, facing his enemy with courage and compassion, because he was rooted in a goodness deeper than suffering. Even in the midst of suffering, the taproot of his spirit was deeply anchored in the goodness of God.”
It is not hard to imagine, or maybe you remember, a storm of such power that trees were uprooted. Did you notice the exposed roots? Often those trees had wide surface roots that held them secure through most storms. But when hit with the full force of a wind shear, especially when the soil is weakened by repeated rains, their roots were not deep enough to hold fast.
Persistent pain, whether physical or psychological, is like repeated storms that weaken our footing, and can uproot us if our roots in faith are not deep and sound enough. Pain is a normal part of the experience of life and contributes to our development. Words from an unknown poet speak of purposefulness in that suffering, “There is a ministry of pain…in the making of the soul.”
Only if we stay grounded with Christ.
Horticultural science revealed that if a tree’s root system is bruised or damaged, buffeted by winds, and still in the soil, it will grow more roots to create a greater stability against future storms—the organism becomes stronger specifically where the stressor was greatest.
Again from Robert Norris,
“In the midst of agony, the sufferer stays connected to a larger goodness instead of being pulled out into the terrible vortex of fear, anger, helplessness, and grief that swirls in his soul.” (p.13)
There is a liberation of the soul in suffering, in the living into the pain knowing that there is healing—if not a cure—as it unites itself to God. The soul recognizes a life, an eternity, worth suffering for.
A prayer from a beloved priest kind of sums it up: Increase in me Oh Lord, my dependence on you.
Taproot (n.): something that provides an important central source for growth or development.
Image: Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons