As I look out my office window this morning, the rain is coming down in sheets. At the corner of the building, just outside my window, is a magnolia tree (at left) that was planted when the building was landscaped five years ago.
Since the building was constructed without gutters and downspouts, the rain falls freely off the roof. The poor magnolia tree happens to be located in an inside corner where it gets pummeled by water every time it rains. The rain has worn away the topsoil around the base of the tree, and there are no leaves on the side of the tree that gets hit hardest.
But nonetheless, we have marveled at how this tree has not only survived, but thrived. Each year, it grows taller and the leaves on the remainder of the tree are green and healthy. In early summer, it is covered with fragrant white blooms. How can this tree survive the pounding of thousands of gallons of water? The answer: its creator has given it unusual roots.
Magnolia trees are famous for their expansive root systems. It’s a questionable decision to plant a magnolia near a building, because its roots can extend far beyond the radius of the tree’s branches and may invade underground infrastructure. The roots usually grow unbranched, in ropelike structures. Although they can spread wide, they are not very deep.
This is why magnolias can often survive high winds; it’s due to the anchoring of their wide root systems.Of course, there are many trees whose strong roots help them survive. I am reminded of the live oaks that withstood the howling winds and relentless storm surge of Hurricane Katrina. True, some fell, and others were victim to the vast amounts of salt from the seawater. But there are still many remaining today. They live now because of their strong roots.
As I thought about the tree, it reminded me that we too must have good root systems, or we will be blown about by the winds of adversity. Of course, people don’t have actual roots, and are free to move around. We derive our sustenance from the food we take in through our mouths, while most plants get their food through their roots. No, I am talking about being firmly rooted in a spiritual sense.
2 Peter 3:17 says, You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
And in Psalms 1, the Psalmist notes that the righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. In contrast, the wicked are “like chaff that the wind blows away.”
The Christian builds his roots in the Word of God. In good times, when there is abundant sunlight and food, the tree will grow and thrive, building its root system in preparation for the dark and rainy days. This is why we are supposed to read the Bible each day, and learn the lessons God has to teach us there. We build our roots (and our stability) a little at a time, as we begin to fertilize our hearts with the nourishment of the Bible. Otherwise, we remain stuck as spiritual babies, unprepared for the realities of a harsh world. As the Psalmist also noted (119:11): Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.
Those with weak roots are unprepared for adversity. They really are just left to decide for themselves which is the right decision to make in a crisis. Without firm roots to anchor them, hard times will buffet them about like toy boats in a bathtub. (In an organization such as ours, which was founded to encourage ethical principles, we see evidence of this every day).
The message is clear. Being firmly rooted, like our friend the magnolia tree, is the only way to survive the deluge of adversity that may come our way from time to time.
Live long, magnolia tree! I look forward to seeing those white blossoms this year!
(c) March 8, 2011 by William D. Moak