Dobbies was all but empty. No bustle of shoppers and tangle of chairs and tables, just social distancing and efficient service. I sat down with a pot of tea, a bacon roll and my kindle. It had been a while. My Dobbies card had expired some time early into lockdown so there was no free drink to collect.
I’d downloaded a book of devotionals written by a man who taught a preaching course I did a few years ago. I liked his style, the stories he told and the truth he taught. I settled down to read the first chapter.
It was all about a tree, planted and growing somewhere. Throughout the decades a town was built, and the height of the tree was measured in how many stories high the buildings were. There were wars and men went to the moon and the tree grew. Then one day, out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever, the tree fell over. Ah, thought I, ash die-back, dutch elm disease – the kind of tree was never mentioned, but I thought disease. It’s what we battle with today.
But, no, said the experts. There was no evidence of any internal damage going on. The problem lay underneath the ground, with the roots. All the traffic of feet, walking and running and skipping and hopping, had broken up the network of roots and without roots, falling down was always going to happen. The experts recommended that all the other trees should be fenced off so that people couldn’t get near them. And so it happened.
Things in the natural often have a spiritual truth to tell. People have roots too. They are not the kind that tether a person to one spot alone, but a person’s thoughts and feelings, their dreams and memories are all there inside. And then people come along walking and running, skipping and hopping over those things. A word here, a look there, a snatch of a smirk, a rumble of ridicule or a bold insult all serve to break up that precious network of thought-roots. It doesn’t always have to be deliberate. We think that people think like us and won’t be hurt because sometimes we are not hurt by them. All too often the hurt isn’t visible.
We need to do some fencing off.
We need to take steps to guard the things that are precious. When God tells us that He loves us unconditionally, we should not allow ourselves to trample over that truth. When God says we are the apple of his eye we should not list all the qualities of a bad apple and say that is us. God’s word written down and read, breathed upon by His Spirit, helps us to guard the heart inside.
I planted the truth and harvested a poem:-
A Tree and its Roots
a glorious tree, it was that grew
leafy limbs in the sky it threw
cool the shade from a blazing sun
a leaning place for those who run
it wasn’t the wind on a stormy day
nor insects inside nibbling away
but came there a day when the tall tree fell
what caused its fall who could tell?
a wise man lent on his walking stick
he said that the roots had fallen sick
feet all tramping here and there
were more than all the roots could bear
without its roots a tree will fall
it matters not how large or small
beneath the soil we cannot see
how strong or weak the roots might be
it’s just like folk the wise man said
they too have roots that grow and spread
so much that spills across the soul
can stop a man from being whole
a careless word, a touch of scorn
and something deep inside is torn
hope that’s dashed, a promise broke
is all it takes to hurt some folk
there’s need, he said, to guard the roots
to nurture new and growing fruits
to mind the spirit deep inside
where grace and peace and truth reside
precious are the lives we live
priceless is the love we give
full of power the words we sa