Remember when you were a kid and you loved being outdoors? Being out in the fresh air and you actually hated it when you had to come back inside for dinner or get ready for bed? You wanted to stay out with your friends as late as possible doing all the outdoorsy things. Biking, swimming, climbing trees etc. And then we get older and kind of outgrow all of that because now we have to begin adulting and do all of the adulting things. Why is life so hard?
While I’ve definitely had to do a lot of growing up there are still things from my childhood that I enjoy doing. I still love being outdoors, going for hikes and climbing trees. Yup, you heard me. I’m 37 years young and if I’m out for a hike and I see some accessible tree branches you betcha that I’m gonna start climbing. I have no shame. I just love being out in nature and staying active.
I saw a picture once of one of the oldest oak trees and the inner tree climbing kid in me immediately wanted to climb it. It’s called the Angel Oak and it’s located down south near Charleston,SC. It is estimated to be over 500 years old, at least, stands 66 feet tall, is 28 feet in circumference and produces shade that covers 17, 200 square feet! It’s longest branch is 187 feet! I can’t even fathom how huge that is. You guys, this isn’t just any perfect climbing tree. This is THE perfect climbing tree! Just like the kind you see in pretty much every Nicolas Sparks movie or the tree that Jenny and Forrest Gump hang out in. The only problem is that you can’t actually climb it because of it’s historical significance but just to look at this tree in person would be amazing. This tree has survived hundreds of years of storms, hurricanes and civil freaking war! And now people from all over come to just stand there and marvel at all of it’s greatness.
So, how does a tree like that become so great? Like all good things in life…a seed. In this case, an acorn. Most people don’t give a trees root system much thought but it’s actually quite intricate and to a nerd like me, also fascinating. When an acorn is first planted all of the work is being done underground where no one can see. The initial root is called the taproot, which grows underground vertically, searching for a dependable supply of moisture. Once this is accomplished, more branch and foliage growth can begin above ground. Pretty soon, this taproot is surpassed by the extensive and intricate root system that spreads horizontally. This brings the tree nutrients for it’s entire lifetime. While most oak tree roots are usually only 18 inches below the surface, they have been known to spread and occupy space that is four to seven times the width of the trees crown! In some cases, the root system of a mature oak tree can total hundreds of miles! This serves as the trees anchor that keeps it secure through the most intense storms. Even if the tree above ground is destroyed by a fire, the roots can survive and sprout new stems.
Knowing all of this delightful information (you’re welcome by the way) and then looking again at the Angel Oak down in South Carolina, can you imagine what the root system of a tree of that magnitude would look like? That tree is so firmly anchored into the ground that it’s not going anywhere.
This magnificent, larger than life oak tree all begins with a tiny acorn, first being rooted vertically so then it can spread out and grow horizontally. Unless the taproot finds what it needs vertically the acorn will die right there before it even has the chance to become a mighty oak tree. I’ve always found this to be a picture that runs parallel to our own lives.
Jesus makes a similar reference to this in John Chapter 15. He talks about how He is the vine and we are the branches. As long as we remain in Him we will produce good fruit. When we are apart from Him or not joined to Him we can do nothing. In the case of the oak tree, Jesus is the taproot, the vertical relationship between us and God. The horizontal roots that branch out from the taproot is everything else in our lives. Our relationships with others, our decisions, our careers, our habits etc. If we want good fruit in our lives we must first establish a connection vertically between ourselves and God. This comes through Jesus. At that point, everything else in our lives will grow and branch out (the vast horizontal root system) from that, which over time, will eventually produce the good fruit (the acorn).
We all want to produce good fruit. But did you know that it can take between 20-50 years for an oak tree to even start producing acorns? That’s a long time to wait! And I am not always the most patient person when it comes to looking forward to something. I’m 37 and I’m still waiting on stuff. Because. Adulting. Is. Hard. Work. Even though the tree has already started to grow above ground and we can clearly see that it is in fact, a tree, it still has to wait it’s turn to fully mature. Meanwhile, underneath the surface, the massive root system is still branching out and growing in all of it’s intricate, messy, vastness.
The tree looks beautiful and majestic above ground for all to see but underneath, it’s a hot mess. If you look up pictures of a trees root system, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s not all that pretty. It’s very tangly, messy, crooked, dirty, overlapping each other. And on top of all of that, if there is an obstacle in the way like a rock or pavement, well that just means that baby is going to have to find a way to push it’s way around it or even through it so that it can keep on growing. Because it has a job to do! To keep that tree alive, no matter what. No matter how messy it is underneath, all that matters is that that tree is getting what it needs to live. Messiness doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
I know for myself, my life has been a hot mess in one way or another. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? You look back over decisions made, things you’ve said or done and cringe. Or even things that were said and done to you and you double cringe, with a side of anger and vengeance (hold the vengeance though cause Romans 12:19). But even though our lives can feel and look like a tangled mess sometimes, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to eventually produce good fruit. So long as we are tapped into Jesus, where we receive what is needed for a fruitful life. Everything in our lives will branch out from that. That, in turn becomes our anchor that can weather any storms or wars that come our way. Through all the twists and turns. Through the dirty, crooked, tangly mess that’s hidden underneath, if we’re rooted in Him, it’s only a matter of time before everyone will be able to stand back and see the good fruit that was produced because of it.