Fearless Faith

Rooted and grounded in love


The hackberry tree row in our north shelter belt has been present for 80-some years if counting growth rings is worth anything. Hackberries are durable, drought resistant and rather tenacious. Unfortunately over the last decade, storms and annual drought have taken a toll on them, leaving just two out of five once healthy trees. It’s always sad to lose trees, especially in this area and climate. Every tree comes at a cost, however, and for most that means finding less fancy, more slowly growing trees that are disease resistant water saving.

It is easy to underestimate the value of the trees. They don’t change much from day-to-day, silently going about their business as they should. It is when they are damaged that we take notice, particularly when aesthetics are involved. Shade is much beloved in the summer months and our appreciation for it runs high.

The trees that continue to thrive have a common characteristic; they are well rooted in the soil as evidenced by the base around each. Roots at ground level have found their way laterally as they add support to the current trunk and branches above. Being rooted and well-grounded adds to the vitality and wonder of the tree itself.

From Ephesians 3:16-17 … “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (NRSV) In Eugene Perterson’s paraphrase “The Message,” the language is even more buoyant. “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

All this from a metaphor about tree roots? And yet, if you have taken time to observe the amazing attributes of trees that thrive in challenging environments, you have some sense of what it means to be rooted and grounded. The first few years of graduate school demanded that we live a variety of places, never for very long. A dozen moves in thirteen years took the humor right out of the “adventure in moving” promised by a popular rental company. Much to our surprise, we have now been rooted in the same place for 25 summers. It’s a fit, and we wouldn’t consider being anywhere else.

To be “rooted and grounded in love” is no small thing. Most of us can identify friends or neighbors who have appeared to succeed in that regard. You just know it when you see it. No pretense or artifice appears present, just a willingness to listen to the Spirit and allow it to stir our souls. Such people can become part of us if we allow, additional “roots” that stabilize and protect us. The spiritual community can be an asset of great value if we learn to trust and respect one another. “Rooted and grounded in love” is not just an ideal, a way to be with others. It is a glimpse of caring community that can’t help but spill over into our everyday lives.


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