Across from our new house is this (above) beautiful, peaceful park of sorts. Today, I sat upon one of the rocks, listening to the water that flowed nearby, wanting peace but not quite sure how to find it, and once again heard myself asking God — When will I find my purpose here? When will I feel part of community? When will this feel like home?
That’s when I looked over to see the row of houses (ours is on the left) and discovered a different perspective of the home I’m usually sitting inside. From this outside point of view, I saw it as one of a set. A part of a whole. I could see how it fit in a grander scheme.
I made the connection. Even though I don’t feel like I belong right now, I am part of something bigger. There is a plan in the works.
I felt my shoulders start to relax, and I took in a deep breath.
I began going through my morning routine, opening each of the apps on my phone that guide me through Scripture and prayer. My friends in our “Discipleship Band” were reflecting on today’s reading about how knowing the truth will set us free (John 8), realizing with conviction that Jesus is that truth.
As we admitted how much we needed that truth, we landed on some hard core realities about ourselves. Instead of just knowing about Jesus, we needed to know Him. Really know Him. Like growing a root system, one friend said.
She went on to make a comparison to her recent camping trip where she was surrounded by extraordinarily tall pine trees. Trees so tall that she wondered if they’d snap in the next big wind. But she learned they actually stand strong in any weather because their roots grow so deep.
Ah. There it was. I felt in my spirit a truth I needed to grab hold of.
If I’m to stand strong in life’s storms, I need to be planted in Jesus. My roots need to grow so deep in Him that I can weather all seasons and storms.
Another deep breath.
I moved on in my morning’s routine and found myself being led through Isaiah 61:1-3. And nearly fell off my rock as I read the final verse of the passage.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
More trees!! (I love it when God does this!)
With my eyes closed, I allowed myself to visualize what “oaks of righteousness” might look like. In our new home state of Texas, we’re surrounded by gorgeous hundreds-year-old oak trees, whose branches twist and turn yet never bend. They are strong. They withstand.
My mind basked in the imagery. My heart filled with the peace I’d been seeking.
I opened my eyes.
And right before me stood a grove of oak trees.
I’d never stopped to consider what kind of trees they were till that very moment.
Oaks of righteousness. Standing strong in the Lord. Not in self. Not in circumstances. But in God.
…a planting of the Lord. Everything in me wanted to be that — a planting of the Lord. But what does that look like? How do I plant myself for Him?
And as I asked those questions, the irony was not lost on me. I am a transplant. I have been uprooted, moved, and replanted somewhere new.
I’ve watched the recently transplanted trees in our new neighborhood struggle with their change of environment, taken from the place where they’d been rooted for years. Carted off on trucks and stuck in new, unfamiliar soil. On top of that, the heat took its toll on them this summer. Then the rain nearly drowned them because their roots haven’t had a chance to grow deep. They’re struggling to survive.
These trees suddenly became a visual representation of why I have felt so restless. Why I’ve fought the urge to topple over and give in to the heat of the season.
I laughed as I realized I need to take the same advice I’ve been giving the trees (Yes, I talk to trees. And birds.) “Hang in there,” I tell them. “Don’t give up. It’ll take time, but you’ll get used to your new surroundings. Your roots will grow deeper with each passing season. Your branches will get stronger and will be filled with fruit one day.”
The peace and truth I’d been searching for flowed over me, in me, through me.
God wasn’t quite done with me, though. My eyes moved to the ground before me where in the gravel some little souls had traced out His name.
I smiled. It’s all about God. Everything we are and do — it’s for Him. Just as in Isaiah’s day, we’re meant to be oaks of righteousness. A planting of the Lord.
On display for His splendor, His glory.
We’re all on a journey, friends. We each find ourselves in different seasons with varying emotions and purposes. So, whether we’re a recent transplant, a budding tree whose branches are starting to strengthen and spread, or a tree ripe with fruit to share, let’s not neglect our roots. May we intentionally keep them in the soil of God’s presence, nurturing them with living water, His Word. And, as we get to know Him in the truest sense of the word, may we trust He will help us become strong oaks — a planting of Him, on display for Him.
Digging my roots deeper, Shelley Johnson