Rootedness

Did you ever have a high school physics project where you had to make a tower of straws and paperclips? A bridge out of noodles and a rubber band? Seemingly impossible tasks because there is little to no foundation.Certainly not the support we would hope to harness in our efforts to erect the tippy, top-heavy structure. But, record setting or not, there is a way.

I noticed the same thing about sunflowers this summer.

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This past winter we put a bird feeder in the back yard. It was a fun way to attract color and general signs of life to an otherwise quiet, snowy landscape. Chickadees, cardinals, wrens and the occasional squirrel were frequent (and messy) guests in the limbs of the crabapple. Needless to say, this spring we found a small field of sunflowers growing around said tree. Half in resignation, half because of my soft spot for these lanky beauties, I left them alone to grow and bloom as they might…and I was not disappointed.

Come early August there was an explosion of gold and black bobbing heads out my back window: Some small, some tall and sturdy, each following the movement of the sun from morning until night. Just as the feeder had done in the bleak winter’s landscape, the blooms attracted life and color in the bees, finches (and squirrels!) that cannot miss these huge blooms. 

But fall is in the air now. I am not planting. Instead I am pulling the stalks of these tired blooms out by the root.

Do you know what’s there at the bottom of these, leafy, towering, blooms? Hardly anything! These giants can easily reach twelve feet tall with a tough, tough stalk. Pull it out by the roots and you will remove some tightly-held soil under the 4” root and hardly move the surrounding dirt. How can this be?

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There’s been a lot of talk about Saint Theresa of Calcutta this month after her canonization. Catholic or not, the world has been captivated by her remarkable capacity to love those the world would forget. She is simple, easily quotable, adorable in pictures and faithful to her core—she was made to capture our hearts and remind us of what is good in humanity and God. I suspect she’s more endearing still because we know she struggled to feel God’s presence. This wasn’t an occasional experience but a prolonged one. She experienced a long episode of darkness. Even in the midst of some of the most inspired and merciful work to date; she waited vigilantly in the dark for a sign of the Lord, her Light.

And haven’t we all felt that?

Despite her petite nature, she is a giant; a champion for the needs of the human person and how we might love one another at our best, and perhaps even when we feel we are at our lowest.

I recognize that this is not a horticultural blog, but the metaphor for me here is rich. Scripture references to planting and harvesting are abundant and yet I am touched by the simple observation in my garden: That even where we might imagine our need for rootedness to be deep and profound and impenetrable, the truth of the sunflower—of Saint Teresa of Calcutta—speaks to my core: Whether my foundation feels secure and stable or shallow and weak, the only requirement of me is to hold on tightly. I may never see the life that that grip sustains, but I entrust that work to Another. 

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So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7