A few months ago I got a few slips of a basil bush from my friend Stephanie (thanks Steph!). I planted one in my garden and the other I put in water to grow roots. The one in water grew roots quickly and I planted it too. Here it is: (sorry the pictures aren’t so great – taken with my phone)
I looked after the other one diligently, mulching and watering it. But nothing happened. The leaves it did have when I planted it died and fell off. I left it, hoping it would grow, but it didn’t. Last week I decided it had had enough grace and went to pull it out, but as I reached out to grab it, I noticed it had tiny green leaves on it.
What had it been doing all this time?
Out of sight, it was growing a hidden life.
Without roots that bush will not grow, flourish, or bear leaves for me to use.
The roots are the most important part.
Roots are unseen.
Just because roots are unseen doesn’t mean they are not important.
Only 1/7th of an iceberg is visible on top of the water. In the same way, what other people see is only a small portion of what you really are below the surface, in your hidden life.
What happens in public with people, people, people is not the most important.
The truth is that, “the greater the proportion of your day – of your life – spent hidden in quiet, in reflection, in prayer, in scheduling, in preparation, the greater will be the effectiveness, the impact, the power, of the part of your life that shows.” [i]
Your spiritual life is nourished by your invisible union with Christ. Is He nourishing your soul? Are you getting your nutrients from Him? Have your roots sunk down deep into Him, through faith? What are you feeding on?
Roots are for taking in.
A plant is nourished by the nutrients that surround it. What is nourishing you? Facebook, internet, friends, movies?
God will give you exactly the spiritual nutrition you need, but you have to be surrounded by Him, His word.
He will give you strength for your weakness, light for your darkness, solutions for your problems, freedom for your burdens, peace for your frustrations, comfort in your trials, answers to your questions, wisdom for your ignorance, knowledge for your lack of it.
But you must spend time with Him.
Roots are for storage.
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit….” Jeremiah 17:
A healthy root system will sustain you through hard times. When God seems distant or you feel alone, during an illness or family crisis.
In these times you may have no time for formal quiet time with God, but you will be sustained because of your root reserve.
WARNING: root reserves can be depleted.
Root reserves are stored nutrients in the roots that are necessary for survival of a plant. These reserves can be used up. Grass must have a period of rest after it is grazed in order for the root reserves to be replenished otherwise the plant cannot grow.
When it rains after a long period of drought, grass doesn’t always take off and grow. The reason? The grass is building up its root reserves. Only once the reserves are replenished will the grass begin to grow above the surface.
Once your crisis is over, you must replenish your reserves or your spiritual life will be stunted and may die. You cannot go on living on a past experience indefinitely.
Roots are for support.
Without a well-developed root system a plant becomes top heavy. Too many leaves with no support from beneath. The slightest wind will blow it down and it will need to be supported by others.
Long ago trees for the main masts of military or merchant ships were specially prepared. The shipbuilders selected a tree located on the top of a hill. Then they cut away all the surrounding trees that would shield the chosen tree from the wind. As the years went by and the winds blew fiercely against the tree, it grew stronger until it was strong enough to be the mast of a ship. Battered by the storms and wind it grew deep roots to support itself.
Only Christ can be the anchor for your soul. Some people appear strong, and talk strong, but they are not rooted in Christ. They have many leaves (good works), but no roots (real connection with God). When opposition or persecution come they will fall like a tree without a tap-root.
How is your hidden life? Are you cultivating it? Do you have roots? Are you a leafy Christian with lots of good things for people to see or do you have roots that have sunk down deep into Christ? Will you stand when the wind blows?
It’s going to blow.
So where do you start to grow your roots?
Here are three ways to grow your hidden life.
If your surroundings are not conducive to spiritual growth and you can’t move then do what you can to change the atmosphere that surrounds you. Place a Bible verse on your desk. Play Christian music in your car. Pray for protection from your environment. Lift your heart up to Christ while you work or study.
“Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.” [ii]
Don’t be intimidated by those that can quote many Bible verses (or chapters). Don’t be discouraged by your small amount of faith.
Everyone starts somewhere. And everyone starts small. “For who hath despised the day of small beginnings?” Zechariah 4:10
Don’t despise small beginnings.
Something is better than nothing. So spend time with God. You will not grow spiritually unless you do.
“We must say no not only to things which are wrong and sinful, but to things pleasant, profitable, and good which would hinder and clog our grand duties and our chief work.” [iii]
Our chief work is character building and getting ready for heaven. Are you taking the time to invest in eternity?
There are many things that distract from preparing for heaven. Social engagements, Facebook, Instagram, movies, books, music, helping others, ministry.
Don’t allow these to distract you from the most important work. Say no to anything that will draw you away from Christ.
So the basil plant that I almost pulled out is finally starting to grow but it’s waaay behind the other one. The only difference between the two? I took care to cultivate the roots in the flourishing one. Because of that it is strong and growing and I look forward to lots of basil!
The strong one was attacked by worms and at one point I wondered if it would survive. It did. I’ve even managed to take a slip from it and plant it somewhere else. (I grew the roots first!) This plant is growing, strong, and giving – all because it has strong roots.
Do you have a hidden life? Is it growing? Are you growing roots that will sustain you in times to come? Don’t settle for being a top-heavy Christian with lots of leaves, but no roots. A storm is coming. The winds will blow. Are your roots strong and deep?
What kind of Christian are you? One with leaves only? Do you have roots?
[i] [i]Ray and Anne Ortlund, The Best Half of Life, 88
[ii] Steps to Christ, 99, Ellen G White
[iii] Carol Mayhall, From the Heart of A Woman, 11