Mercy,  the Word,  Worth

thirsty roots and fig stranglers

Thirsty basil.

We love basil, we buy it in bouquets.  I love to bury my face in it.  It takes a lot of basil to make pesto for our crew, so when David picks some up, he comes home with at least 10 bunches – in fact our local farm stand always gives him extra for free.   They see him coming and they head for the walk-in.

A few weeks ago, I took a few little unloved branches off the counter, and before they could turn (which happens fast with basil), I dropped them in an old glass milk bottle I use for flowers, and filled it up with water.  It’s been growing wild roots on my window sill.

Roots are curiously needy and carelessly prolific.  A root isn’t fussy about where it will curl up and latch on, it just seeks optimal conditions for growth.  Recently I was in Keene’s bustling downtown shopping area when I caught sight of this plant reaching out from its prime real estate, a sunny hanging pot outside a caring shop keeper’s front door.  She had just come out to tend every little thing, sweeping leaves from around her displays and watering her plants diligently.  Was that nice water enough for this plant?  Nope.  It wanted more.  More than the full attention of the sky, it wanted more sun.

More. Sun.
More. Sun.

When it comes to water and sun, plants will bend over backwards, literally, just to get some.  On my hike recently, I saw the same principle at work; trees had arced and twisted themselves silly, just for a sunny place in the canopy.  That kind of longing is more than a metaphor, its a quality living things all share.  Life finds a way.


We strongly desire the things that will keep us alive.  Until recently, I hadn’t thought of self-compassion as one of those things.

As a little girl I learned to hold loosely to the harsh words of others and let them “go in one ear and out the other.”  If one is in the habit of forgiving, it isn’t so hard to do.  This forgiveness cycle married well with my faith over the years.  I didn’t realize I was still holding my own God-forgiven sin like a knife at my back until many years hence, when I started to wonder why I always looked back with lament instead of joy.  Shame lingered and twisted for light.

strangler-fig-crushSelf-condemnation, over time, will wrap itself around our thinking until it sits like a fig strangler on our hearts.  If you’ve never seen one, let me tell you, it’s chilling.  A fig strangler is a  tree I once saw in the Everglades which crawls around other trees like liquid bark and eats its host alive.  When the strangler has done its work, the tree is hollowed out and only the strangler remains.  In the same way, when we continually resist God’s power to set us free not just from sin  but also from the guilt of condemning ourselves, we let that nasty root have its way with us.  And over time, it makes us weak.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  The life God wants to root us deeply in is nothing like that.

You know that belittling self-talk in your head that you sometimes hear, and you wonder if it is God?  That’s what our enemy wants us to wonder (1Peter 5:8).  If it stinks of condemnation (Romans 8:1-2), it’s not your Father talking.  God would never speak to his beloved like that.  To him, his kids are won and we are prized.  We are beautiful, whole, worthy, and family.  We are his Bride, and he is our Valiant Defender!  And that’s what his voice will sound like – it will always sound like love (1John 4:8).

We know this, don’t we?  But sometimes we still feel spiritually exhausted for no apparent reason.  If no real struggle is bearing down, and you still feel out of breath, chances are the shame game is on.

Take it to the Lord and let him show you where his pruning shears are making contact.  I took some time to do that this week – I let go of the past and confessed to God that I was holding my own sin over my head, when he no longer does.  It was messy business.  The more I confessed, the more he unearthed, exposing my tender roots so I could be replanted in new soil.  The good stuff, this time.

Now, the mercy I mirror back bears fruit in the mercy I have plenty of to give.  And all of it is God’s.  I don’t make this mercy up.

Trusting God to keep setting me free from me – little by little – is like soaking my heart in strength.Tweet This Like plants whose roots reach down for nutrients and stretch up for light, God says that those who trust him get the fruit of that trust.  Sounds too good to be true.  That’s God, for you.  Soak it up. Let the life flow out from the Gardener to your thirsty roots, bringing the warm sun of freedom to the flourishing tree that is you.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water….prime optimal soil

that sends out it’s roots by the stream... active longings satisfied

It does not fear when heat comes…heat will come and the root is undaunted

its leaves are always green…life does not stop flowing all the way out to the edge of its influence

It has no worries in a year of drought…it thrives even in a long hard situation

and never fails to bear fruit…its harvest is unlimited

Jeremiah 17:7&8


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