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.)