Recently I saw something that reminded me of the importance of having roots that go down deep: a toppled tree with very shallow roots.
On top of North Sugarloaf Mountain in New Hampshire, the trees can't put down their roots very deep...presumably because the soil is so rocky. There's probably a granite slab a couple feet under the soil. The result is that instead of putting down deep roots, the tree's roots spread out just under the surface.
When the high winds come (and believe me, they get very high winds in the White Mountains!), even though the tree is alive, it has no stability in its roots to withstand the blast. The result is tragic for the tree; it simply tips over, exposing the underside of its very shallow root system.
I began thinking then of how very much like us this tree is. For us, it is tempting to put down very shallow roots in our lives. Why? Because shallow roots are easier. They don't require as much work.
They don't require us to put off what we want in order to gain what we need. They don't require us to choose obedience in difficult circumstances, only the easy ones. They don't require us to choose honesty even when we know it will hurt us. They don't require us to choose compassion over unkindness. They don't require us to choose humility over pride. They don't require us to choose a strong work ethic over laziness or procrastination. They don't require us to have patience over grasping what we want now. They don't require us to choose generosity over selfishness.
For many of us, life is more about finding what is convenient, fun, and enjoyable, rather than choosing what is right no matter what the circumstances, and no matter what the cost. This is the way of shallow roots. If I choose the easy way over the right way, maybe no one but me will notice that I'm not living the way I should...but when the storms come, I won't be ready for them!
Remember this: a tree cannot wait for the storm to come before it puts down deep roots; then it is already too late. Put down deep roots now, so when the storm comes, you'll be unmovable and unshakable.
This morning I went out snowshoeing. Because we've had a mixture of snow, rain, and freezing rain recently, there were stretches of my trek where the rain had washed down the hill, forming a smooth sheet of ice on an uphill grade.
Now, if I hadn't been wearing my snowshoes, I would have found it just about impossible to make it up that slope without sliding backwards two feet for every foot I moved forward.
But my snowshoes have vicious-looking sawtooth crampons on the bottom, that do a great job of digging into the ice and giving me the traction I need.
I didn't slip even once, on my way up the hill, or on my way back down.
As I was walking, I thought of two verses. One of them was a verse I read just yesterday, from the book of Psalms. Psalm 73, speaking of the wicked, says:
The Psalm tells us that those who live with unrighteousness might appear to have it all together, they might appear to be on solid footing, but in reality, they're like someone on a sheet of ice without snowshoes. Sooner or later, no matter how "together" they seem to be, they'll slip up, and everything falls apart.
Now, if I were to ask you, "How do you avoid that slippery place?" you might be tempted to answer, "Don't get involved in unrighteousness." That's not a bad answer, but it's actually not what the Psalmist says. In verses 2 and 3, he writes:
Isn't that interesting? The Psalmist says that it is envy that almost put him on the slippery slope. That makes sense, doesn't it? It is our envy that causes us to take the same shortcuts the unrighteous take in order to reach our goals.
I guess that means contentment is like a good pair of snowshoes. I wouldn't want to be without it!