In our spiritual garden is a particularly nasty and diseased tree called ‘self’. Though hideous this tree is but a product of what lies beneath. The real danger lay in the roots of ‘self’ that feed this twisted relic.
An ordinary tree
Growing up with a father who was a horticulturist meant that I spent a great amount of time around plants. My favorites were the trees. Periodically, my father would be tasked with removing some old tree. One particular tree proved to be a real challenge. I learned a lesson I would carry for the rest of my life.
The tree was not remarkable except that it was ancient. First, my father removed the larger limbs to reduce the trees’ weight. That job complete the trunk was then cut down to the ground. Next we chopped the wood and removed the mess that remained. With nothing left but a round woody base, level with the soil, we believed we had fulfilled the contract.
The next year found us back at the same yard where we removed the tree. In its place were several saplings that had grown up around the stump. Our belief we had successfully killed the tree mocked by these leafy stalks. This was one resilient plant.
The root of the problem
Understanding that the root of our problem lay beneath the soil, we began shoveling the dirt from around the base of the stump. After digging 3 to 4 feet, we started hacking away at the roots. The stump quietly laughed at our pitiful human efforts to dislodge it and refused to budge.
My father was never one to quit. When the job became too difficult, he decided to apply some mechanical effort. He called on me to drive the tractor over for help persuade the stump to move. Once in place, we put a chain between the tractor and stump and began to pull. The mechanical effort proved too much for the root, and we slowly extricated the offending wood. We worked all day and ruined a good part of the lawn.
After filling in the remaining hole, we raked the soil and put sod over the area where the old stump used to be. Nothing remained to show the presence of the tree nor our efforts to remove it. The tree was gone for good; or so we thought.
The life within
Fast forward to a year later. The same customer contracted us to care for their lawn. Once a week throughout the summer I would mow the lawn unless we were too busy. On one occasion as I was mowing I spotted something unusual in the grass. Before me was the distinct shape of a little leaf from a tree very like the one we had removed.
Twenty feet away from where the tree once stood, an old root had sent out the hope of new life. This root was deeply embedded, alive, persistent and still wanted to grow. Though the parent had long vanished this tiny sapling was evidence of life beneath the soil. I stood in awe of this plant.
The tree of 'self'
In the garden that is our life stands the tree of ‘self’. Nurtured since birth this gnarly, warped and twisted tree is the product of a deeply embedded root system. When we first come to Jesus, He is the Master Arborist who takes one look at the tree and says, “It must go.”
If we allow Him to remove the wood of ‘self’ He will take out the limbs and trunk of the diseased tree and disposes of the remains. In its place He leaves the stump. Nothing of ‘self’ remains above ground. Below ground, however, is a different story.
The roots of 'self'
The life of every plant lay in its roots. Hidden from view they draw nourishment from the soil to nourish the plant. Since birth our ‘self’ nature has learned to drink harm from the trauma, abuse, abandonment and disease we face. This builds the root system of ‘self’ which breaks forth in unexpected times and places.
After Jesus removes the tree of ‘self’ from our garden we begin a general cleanup of the rest of the area. God works with us to repair the broken walls, fix dilapidated structures and plant seeds of new life. All the while the roots of ‘self’ stay hidden; secretly growing new shoots of diseased wood.
One day it surprises us to find a sudden show of ‘self’ rising to the surface. “Where did that come from?” is the usual query, followed by, “I thought Jesus dealt with that”. Yes, Jesus removes the tree of ‘self’ from us but the root of ‘self’ is a whole different matter. To remove the root requires our willful cooperation.
As we walk with our God, we learn that dealing with the roots of ‘self’ takes more effort than we originally believed.
Getting to the root of the problem
Unlike removing a tree, dealing with roots is a messier matter. The lawn we had to destroy and rebuild is a stark visual of just how ugly the process is. Our God, however is much better at removing the roots of ‘self’ than my father and I were at removing tree roots.
Each of us have the roots of ‘self’. No one is exempt from this curse.
We will see the leaves of ‘self’ come out in a rage, depression, selfishness, fear, lust, gossip, negativity, worry, pity and a myriad of other responses. Dear believer, we all face these issues but we do not have to be enslaved to them. Our Father can, and will, remove the roots of ‘self’ if we allow Him. His desire is to set us free from bondage to these continual behaviors.
Today, if you hear the Master Arborist calling at your door, take full advantage of His offer. Allow Him to remove the tree of ‘self’ and remove the root of ‘self’. The price will be high but the freedom well worth it.
Homer and Wanda