What Kind of Roots Are You Growing?

I am guilty of negligent planticide. Multiple counts of it.

Houseplants rarely survive my care . . . or lack thereof. I forget to seek out their specific needs. I just stick them in front of a window and water them . . . when they look a little droopy. Turns out, that’s not healthy for them. And not all of them require full sunlight. And fertilizer? You mean there’s not one generic plant food for them all?

My hanging baskets outside fare better since my dear husband has taken it upon himself to keep them watered.

But plants in the ground or big planters do best for me. At least they get dew every morning and enough rain to keep going, and they have enough room for a deep root system.

Occasionally, though, I’ll do battle with a plant that not only survives my neglect, but actively thrives despite my attempts to get rid of it.

Once I had what I thought was a pretty kind of ivy. I think it may have come in a mixed basket of some kind. I planted a few strands along the front edge of of two outdoor planters so they would spill out over the front, making a pretty foreground to the begonias and petunias behind it.

The only problem was, the ivy took over. It stretched over the other plants until eventually it was the only thing growing in the planter. It took all the nutrients so there was none left for anything else. Despite my frequent trimming, the ivy grew so fast that it began to attach itself to the ground around the planters. I pulled up several cords of ivy vines, but in a few days there would be new shoots. I thought we’d never get rid of it.

When a book I read recently mentioned a root of bitterness, some of a root’s imagery came to mind. The phrase comes from Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Deuteronomy 28:18b warns: “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

Despite my botanical ignorance, I know a few things about how roots function.

Roots need room to grow. We planted two crepe myrtle trees at the same time in different parts of the yard. One did well and is now as tall as the house. The other is only about three feet tall. The latter is in a small area between the sidewalk and house, where there must not be enough room for it to spread its roots out.

Roots anchor the plant to the ground. Plants could easily blow over or be dug up without a sufficient root system. Somehow weeds seem to have the strongest or deepest roots, making it difficult to eradicate them completely. Some taproots can grow 200 feet downward according to this article.

Roots take nutrients and water from the soil and feed the plant. Some roots even store food for later use.

Roots help some plants reproduce in other areas. And weeds return unless you dig them up or kill them at their roots.

A root of bitterness will act the same way as a persistent plant’s root system. If we’re not careful, that kind of root will anchor itself in our souls. We can’t easily brush it away or dig it out. It will spread so it takes over our thinking. It will leach nutrients away from other areas of life, so we fail to grow spiritually while the bitterness increases. Eventually we plant bitterness in others as we spread our discontent.

I need to frequently examine my heart. Even when I am not aware of any deep roots of bitterness, I often find seedlings of grudges, resentment, or irritation. I need to avoid giving these roots room to grow. If I don’t dig these up right away, they can send their roots deep and cause bitterness.

Instead I want to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).

I want to be like the blessed “man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

I pray “ that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

I want to be anchored in Jesus, the “root of Jesse” (Romans 15:12-13), the “root of David” (Revelation 5:4-6), the “root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:15-17).

Guarding against spiritual weeds takes diligent care. While we pull out weeds by the root, we plant in their place the right kind of roots. The verse just before the one that mentions the root of bitterness says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Even those of us without a physical green thumb can carefully tend our hearts, pulling up weeds, planting good things, sinking our roots deeply into Christ.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

35 thoughts on “What Kind of Roots Are You Growing?

  1. Sadly, it does happen and even in our own hearts, but your words so true…don’t let it grow. Great reminder. Thanks for visiting and sharing. Have a happy November and week ahead.

  2. I’m sorry Barbara, but I laughed so hard at this, “I am guilty of negligent planticide. Multiple counts of it.” Have you seen the cute little plants at Hobby Lobby? They sell great indoor plants that you don’t have to water. Ha!

    The root of bitterness is quite sobering, and your articulation of roots and their many ways of spreading makes it doubly sobering. May the Lord strengthen us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus, to be generous in our forgiveness, and to tend our hearts well.

    • I have not seen those plants at Hobby Lobby, but I need to look for them. I definitely need low maintenance plants, if I am going to have any at all. My son and d-i-l bring me cut flowers sometimes–it’s nice to just enjoy them for a time and then get rid of them.

      Amen to your last sentence.

  3. Your opening sentence made me laugh right out loud!! I loved it. plantacide. GUILTY for me too.

    I just love the imagery you created in this post. I have lived for 61 years and the first 18 was in my childhood home where my mom (i loved her but……) had many roots of bitterness towards her extended family. I have had to guard my heart against those bitter roots and have had to purpose in my own heart to NOT be bitter towards certain relatives on her side. Yes she had reasons but as a Believer I could never understand why she (and was also a born again Believer) just couldn’t pull those deep roots out….and give them to the Lord. I do know she became less bitter as she got itno her 70s but i saw the fruit of her bitterness and it was sad. I wish she had taken every thought captive and given it to our precious Savior who could bring healing. Thank you for a sobering and serious topic.

  4. I can certainly identify with “planticide”. Plants fear me. The root of bitterness is insidious and as you said, before you know it, you are angry, resentful and miserable. A great post here!

  5. Well, as a “plant-y” person, I loved this! Thank you for all the thoughts on how plants are a great tie-in to our relationship to Jesus. I’ll be thinking about this all day.

  6. Just what I needed to read this morning, Barbara! I’m guilty of both houseplanticide as well as letting little roots of bitterness find cracks to grow in. Thank you for the encouragement to tend my inner soul—even if I can’t grow a houseplant!

  7. I’ve seen how those roots of bitterness can destroy relationships. Not only is it sad, but it’s so unnecessary. Like those wayward ivy roots, roots of bitterness have a way of wrapping around a person’s heart, destroying any good that tries to dwell within. Great words of wisdom. Thank you.

  8. I think WordPress has been eating my comments on your site, so I’ll try again. If the first one went through, feel free to delete this one! I, too, have a houseplanticide problem! Thank you for the reminder to tend my soul and pull out the bitter roots. They are so much easier to extirpate when they are small!

  9. I too have been guilty of committing “planticide”. My husband and I received a beautiful orchid for a housewarming present. The beautiful floral petals fell to the ground within a month and the stem that it grew on now looks like a stick. I found out it was getting too much light on the Kitchen Island were I placed it. I’ve also seen the effects of bitterness when allow to sit out in the open too long. Your connection is spot on. Those roots run deep and are as difficult to kill as your ivy. I enjoyed reading. I will never look at ivy without being reminded of the root of bitterness.

  10. Bitterness does have deep roots and can grow with almost no nutrients or soil. It has a hundred sneaky ways to worm itself into thoughts and words. Trying to weed them out before they can grow a taproot. Love that the antidote is peace. If I start feeling conflict and disagreement, it is often bitterness trying to take root.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your post at our Senior Salon Pit Stop.
    Pinned to Senior Salon Pit Stop InLinkz Linkup Shares board and tweeted @EsmeSalon #SeniorSalonPitStop

  12. As the botanically challenged wife of a greenhouse manager, your opening lines and story really resonated with me! LOL Like you, I do know a few things about roots and the importance of getting rid of the entire root system of any unwanted plant. It takes watchfulness and diligence to get rid of those little seedlings and wannabe roots of bitterness. Good word today!

  13. Wow! Did You ever hit me today. Boy did I need to hear this today. I’m in the process of letting go of a resentment that has been festering inside me. As I continue to draw nearer to God each day, he softens my heart and whisks it away. Thank you for sharing this blessed lesson. So brilliantly spoken. Blessings.

  14. There are those who think I should
    have a root of bitterness;
    God could heal me if He would
    from cancer and from hopelessness.
    Butt He’s holding back the cure;
    why is that, I cannot say,
    but my job is to endure,
    and from this hell point the way
    to mercy that’s beyond our ken,
    to love whose outlines we can’t see
    except looking back to when
    He knelt at Gethsemane
    to win back every heart and soul,
    to slay the grave, keep Heaven whole.

  15. I love this post. It is so important to examine the soil of our hearts on a regular basis and see what grows there. God wants us to be rooted in truth and in His love. The stronger and deeper the roots, the taller the tree of our faith and spiritual life.

  16. I have a theory that writers and plants are a bad mix. We have too many ideas flowing to consider a plant may need water. Thankfully I’m much better with people! I really appreciate this reminder that we can’t allow even the littlest resentments to stay with us lest they grow into a “root of bitterness”. Thank you!

  17. I too understand “negligent plantidie” all too well.” I had to laugh out loud as I read that! And I know that bitterness root. It really does take root and spread like your ivy. I was recalling our front yard when I was in high school. On one front area, a rather good size area was all covered in big ivy. We bought it that way. Mama would have us kids go out there every so many Saturdays and “weed,” dig up so and try to rid section of ivy much to our chagrin! Never worked. But God does have ways for us to rid us of bitterness, I am grateful.

  18. Oh Barb, such a good post which provoked much thought for me. I, like the others here have seen first hand how destructive the root of bitterness can be, yet often look within to find it still firmly rooted in my heart. Praise God He never gives up on me!

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