At the end of spring, my son’s friend Nicole spent about two weeks with us. She’s an art student and on one of their many outings, she took this amazing picture.
I found this tree to be both somewhat ugly and hauntingly beautiful. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind ever since she showed it to me. I think it’s because I see it as a metaphor for my life (past, present, future) and that is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 49th birthday. Yikes! That right there is hard for me to believe. I always thought that when my kids got older time would slow down. I mean…I’m not running around to activities, getting school supplies, keeping track of events…time should slow down…right? Instead it is going faster than ever!
I’m not one of those people who care so much about getting older. I’m not dreading the big 5 0 that is right around the corner, but I have reflected on this birthday more than the others. I think it’s because my mom died a few short months after turning 50. I can’t help but wonder if she knew that she only had one year left to live when she turned 49…would she have done anything differently. I know we should all live as if tomorrow isn’t promised, but do we really think of life that way? I know it’s not something I think about regularly…sure it hits home again when I go to a funeral…but then life gets busy and I forget about it again.
Now I don’t know anything about trees, but I did a little research to find out why the roots appear above ground like this. Seems that some trees are more prone to it happening, but it also frequently happens with large older trees. I look at this picture and think,”How does this tree not fall over with all of these roots above ground??” The roots that are exposed are the tree’s feeder roots. They grow about 8 to 12 inches below ground. The tree is able to remain standing because the roots responsible for anchoring and supporting the tree run much deeper into the ground. Soil erosion over time causes the feeder roots to become exposed…along with the fact that they grow bigger each year. Many people see these roots as a nuisance and want to get rid of them. The reality is cutting away these roots will more than likely kill the tree. And it seems…try as you might…they are really hard to cover. Covering with soil or grass seems to only be a temporary solution as they tend to push their way to the surface again.
So what in the world does a tree’s exposed roots have to do with my life? I guess that’s just how my crazy brain works (smile). When I look at this picture, I see…well a bit of chaos. There could be at least 100 exposed roots on this tree…all intertwined to the point that it is sometimes hard to tell where one root ends and another begins. I look at each of these roots as events, ideas or beliefs, but it especially reminds me of how my faith is woven together. Things that I once believed fused into things I now believe. Even if some of these beliefs are no longer a part of my faith, they are still a part of me. They helped to mold me into who I am today. And just like the tree would more than likely die if you cut away the feeder roots…if I discarded those old beliefs…part of me would die also. Now maybe you are thinking, “Why would you want something you don’t believe to still be a part of you? Why aren’t you trading those old beliefs for your new ones?” (like trying to cover the roots). For me, I use it as a reminder of where I’ve been…how far I’ve grown…but more importantly it’s my reminder to give grace to those who may believe differently than me. That right there is a big deal.
At times my faith feels quite chaotic. At times my faith is attacked by others. And if I’m honest, there are times that I have to ponder what in the world I actually believe. But just like the tree pictured above, I don’t just have feeder roots…I have roots that go deep. They anchor and support me. And those roots are my absolute belief that there is a God and I have a Savior in Jesus. I’ve had too much personal experience to not believe those two things. To me…that’s all that matters. Honestly, it’s all I need. And if I truly believe those two things, then I am going to love others.
The journey that I’ve been on these last few years has caused many of those roots to surface. I am so thankful for that. Someone recently asked me if this journey has changed me. And my answer was a resounding yes! Now don’t get me wrong. I think if you asked people who knew me before I found out my son was gay they would tell you I was a nice, caring person. But as I explained to the person who asked the question, my ability to have compassion has expanded beyond my wildest imagination. I have become more vocal (I tend to be a quiet, shy person). I have a passion for people that I never knew was possible. I’m happiest when I am out loving others…especially those that some people deem unlovable. My view of God is now bigger, more mysterious, more beautiful than I could ever imagine. I don’t have all the answers…I never will. I don’t know if what I believe is right, but then again…do you?
So, if this was my last year to live, would I do things differently? I would keep doing what I’m doing, but I would like to add more to it. So I’m working on that. I don’t know what it looks like yet, but I can tell you it will have something to do with loving more.
Because love matters…