A New Leaf

Ponderings in Changing Seasons


Part 1: Uprooted … Unraveled



Walking across October’s still green grass with a load on my back and a too much stuff in my arms, I nearly stumble.  “Those old roots,” I mumble half aloud.  They’d just popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, an obstacle in my path.

Got me thinking.  About Roots.  I began to play mental gymnastics with the word itself, flipping it over and under.  There are deep roots and shallow roots.  In school studies, we were instructed to find the root whether it was a base word or a mathematical square.  When we garden, we want our plants to take root.  And when the storms come, we hope nothing is uprooted.  We women, we even dye our roots when the wrong color roots begin to show.

I stopped doing somersaults in my mind when I considered the root of the problem.  You see, in order to heal or to grow from any adverse experience, we must first expose the root.  Then, according to the Wisdom from Above, we must take an axe to the root.*  Even if the roots are old, even if they are generational roots.

Some roots just have to come out!


They say, those who study such things, that a tree’s roots expand at least as far underground as the tree’s breadth above the ground.

Stand back and observe a few trees.







That’s a whole lot of ROOTS!

Most are sight unseen.  The leaves?  Well, they come for a season or two; then they let go and they’re gone.  But these roots?  They just grow and grow and grow, spreading this way and that, drawing up water and life-yielding nutrients for the tree they anchor.

Generational roots are like that, too.  They hold on.  They hold up.  They expand across the decades into the children and the children’s children.  And then, into their children.  Generational roots may be hurtful; they may be ugly, shame-ridden.  Or, they may enfold blessings, rich heritage.

We are all recipients of the same generational roots as each of our parents.  Some of these roots we embrace, we enjoy.  We celebrate that Susie plays piano like Aunt Bea.  We admire Bobby’s desire to become a doctor like his Grandad.  But we lament when Bill grows into his Daddy’s weakness and takes up The Bottle, too.  We cry in anger that the same pattern of meanness we received from Sister shows up in very our own child with his sibling.

Stinginess or generosity?  Cup half full or half empty?  Abuse or affirmation?

These roots manifest in each generation.

Some roots just have to come out!

All it takes is a family crisis to expose these roots.  Before long, we revert to how we were taught, what we observed, what we concluded about the world, authority, ourselves, others and God as we grew from child to adult.  We may find ourselves in crisis starting to unravel, to fall apart, separating at our relational seams in the midst of a high-intensity circumstance.

a tangled mess

We may even find ourselves behaving in ways that surprise us, ways we did not even know.  When we are vulnerable, when we are in shock or hurting, we humans tend to act out of the pain.  Even we whose lives have been transformed by the Gospel.

Any crisis carries within it the seed to see within, to glean insight into our own roots.  People can change.  God has given each of us the capacity to grow through direct, experiential learning, as well as through insight. Becoming unraveled, being undone brings a gift of possibility.

We have been given, endowed by our Creator with the power to choose.  Will we continue growing roots of anger, bitterness and strife, if such is the pattern, the generational roots, in our family of origin? **  Or, will we choose to lay the axe to the roots, to process and grow in the face of adversity, allowing ourselves to be rooted in love? ***  Maybe, we have been already blessed, rooted in love.  Are we nurturing those roots in the next generation in our family?

Some roots just have to come out!

 Some roots must stay!

Unraveling our roots, our generational, ancestral roots, is bittersweet. As we unearth information about those who have gone before us, we find both noble and ignoble characteristics. The fruit of the tree falls not far, it is said. Finding the ignoble can be bitter, offensive to our senses. But sweetness comes when we find those in our familial tree who have broken the pattern, who have said, “No” to Vice, or who have said, “Yes” to to Virtue, to a Faith-filled life, to achievement and contribution.

C.S. Lewis put it: None can give another what he does not possess himself.  No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got.                 

It behooves us then to uproot that which is an obstacle to our path. For the sake of ourselves and for the sake of those coming after, let us not remain in that which is familiar merely because the unfamiliar is uncomfortable. Rather, like roots, let us grow down deep into Truth and Wholeness; like the trunk and the branches and the leaves, let us courageously challenge what was and open up to new possibilities as we reach toward the Light.

Tall and Strong

Joycie's Brilliant Trees

Look Up!

Joycie's Sun Rays

Grace of God in the Woods

* Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9

** James 3:14-15; Ephesians 4:30-32; Hebrews 12:15

*** Ephesians 3:17