Recently, I was visiting with a woman about her spiritual growth. She expressed grief over how, in spite of her faith in God, she had repeatedly relapsed in her alcohol addiction. As we talked about her spiritual life, something occurred to me and I shared with her the following information.
God uses several images of trees in scripture. One image is that of the stately, solitary “oak of righteousness”, growing by the river and putting roots down deeply into the earth. The other is the image of cedars, a coniferous species that, instead of deep taproots, put out an intricate web of shallower roots that intertwine with one another in groves, just like the majestic redwoods of California.
As I explained to her, the first represents to me the relationship that the believer develops with the Lord. Our taproot seeks out His nourishing presence and provides us the stability to withstand the winds and droughts of life. On the other hand, the groves of cedars and redwoods represent to me the relationships that the believer must also develop with other believers, interwining our lives together to obtain further stability and strength. As we talked about her life she had vigorously pursued the deeper life with God that sustained her, but she had failed to build a meaningful network of relationships with others that could assuage her loneliness in life and give her the encouragement and accountability that could assist in her battle with alcohol.
I pulled up information from the internet on both types of tree root systems and we talked about how God has designed us for both vertical relationship with Himself and horizontal relationships with one another. One has only to look at the cross to be reminded of the two dimensions and read Acts to see how the early Christians embodied both dimensions in their lifestyle.
God gives us many lessons in the natural world that point to spiritual reality. I believe that this botanical lesson from the trees merits our reflection.