By Sarah Geach, Class of ’20
If you were a tree, you would understand. If you were a tree, you would know what it is like to have roots. You would know what it is like to have a trunk. You would also know what it is like to have branches. And leaves. And fruit. As someone coming from somewhere extremely different, extremely strange, and extremely foreign, I have a vague idea of what it is like to be a tree.
I have always been taught that it is of the greatest importance to make sure you stay rooted in something. How can a tree survive without its roots? The roots sustain the tree. They find nutrition in wormy soil, blindly grope about in the murky depths of the earth, and hope that, somehow, they will be able to make sense of the elements around them. But what happens when the tree is ripped up and replanted? There is always a risk that the tender, adventurous fingerprints of the roots, the tips that are usually so delicate and yet so courageous, will be ripped off and left behind, still caressing the grains of sand they were just starting to get to know. When you transplant, you take that risk.
You see, if the roots are not functioning properly, how will the tree survive? It cannot grow if it can’t eat. Nothing can. It cannot stretch its bony branches to the freshly painted sky, nor waltz in the wind every time she passes by. A tree cannot make fruit for others when it itself has had nothing to eat. If the tree’s bounty turns to dust as it crinkles itself up remembering the old, comfortable soils, so too do the little birdies that once visited regularly. So too does the grass that once stood to attention, erect and vivid, eager to emulate the brilliant sturdiness a tree usually brings to nature. The blades bend, ever so slowly, beaten down by the lashing rays of a sun that used to be radiant, but has become a power-hungry dictator from engorging itself on their spirits. Without the tree’s protective shady reach, the blades are helpless.
When the tree falters, so does the earth. Mother Nature trembles as her system is disrupted. Mother Nature is God’s accountant. She is responsible for adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying. She holds the accounts of the land, keeping everything fair and equal, and working it all out in a ledger far too complex and large for humans to ever understand. Thus, when one lone tree’s roots start losing focus, so does she. What good is an accountant who forgets what one plus one is? If Mother Nature trips over her pet cat, so does the earth.
Can you see what I am trying to tell you here? Can you see that your roots are incredibly important, not just for yourself, but for everyone around you? For everyone around everyone around you. For the earth. For Mother Nature. For God. How can you expect God to carry out His plan if you choose to let your roots settle in soil He did not create specifically for them? Remember that different trees need different soils. They all have different purposes, different reasons for being, and although we all know this, we so often forget.
But what happens, then, when a tree is forced to uproot and settle somewhere else? Last May, I chose to come to America for college. No one forced me to do it – but at the same time I strongly believe that I am here simply because God wanted me to be here. So, I uprooted, sure, but I also had to go. God told me to. The next question, then, is what does He expect me to do? What does He expect a tree created for an open, sunny savannah to do in an environment of white, harsh, freezing snow? Adapt? Maybe. But it cannot change its bark in an instant. It does not have millennia to evolve. I do not have an answer to that. Sorry. I am still in the process of trying to make sense of what my bark really looks like. I do not even know if I knew what it looked like when I left home. That makes it a little bit difficult to change it! Have you ever to solve an equation with two unknowns? Not possible!
So what am I supposed to do? If I am still exploring my above-earth self, if I have just a vague idea that I used to be one way, and now I am sort-of-but-not-quite another way, how do I ensure that I stay myself? This is where my roots take on a whole new level of importance; remember what I said about the roots? About how they could lose their fingerprints when they are moved around? Well, maybe the tree needs to find some other, non-physical way of identifying itself. If I burn my fingers, and my fingerprints disappear, I am still me. If I wear makeup and dye my hair, I am still me. If I am unable to speak, I am still me. If I cannot see, I am still me. If I cannot hear, I am still me. If I cannot feel touch, I am still me. If I am paralyzed, I am still me. But if I stop loving, if I stop letting the spirit of God move in me, am I still me?
I think that I am me for as long as the spirit of God moves in me. My physical appearance may change, and some people may forget me, because all they saw in me was my face, my bark, my leaves. But the people who know my soul would know it wherever they came across it. My soul is the breath of God moving within my mind, within my body. The breath of God moves across the water, through the forests that dress the mountainside, under the curl of waves before they crash to the sand. The breath of God moves within me, constantly molding me, creating me, sustaining me.
As I get older and less sure of what type of soil my roots need, the more I become aware of the essence of who I am, which cannot be changed. I have – we all have, I think – the breath of God flowing through us and giving us the flutterings of life. As God’s beings, our roots evolve from something that no amount of change can change: God. Because we do not know Him completely, no one, no matter how much they argue, can negate Him. Thus, no amount of uprooting and wrong-soil-ing and harsh light can destroy our access to the constant source of nutrition: God. We need to be conscious of where we let our physical and emotional roots explore, because they will grow, and they will discover, and sometimes the things they discover will nearly destroy them. But the most important roots of all are the ones that stem from and grow into God. The beauty of these roots is that they grow between me and Heaven.
But it is up to us to explore them. I like to think that they are already there, already ready to feed us and sustain us, and all we need to do is be willing to feel them, touch them, get to know them. The bridge is built, but we cannot see it yet. Our roots are in God, but none of us knows yet what they look like completely. I think that they are the sort of roots you can only really see from Heaven. Once they have been fully explored and led you to Heaven, you can look back on them and see them in the fullness of time and space.
In the meantime, though, we have to trust that the roots are actually there. Sometimes it is very easy to get so involved in exploring the other types of roots – the physical sensation ones, and the emotional ones – that we forget the most important ones, the ones that cannot be destroyed. This is not to say that you should not explore. Not at all. All roots serve a purpose. But be careful what you feed them.