“There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how you use them.”–Friedrich Nietzsche
Life can be challenging. Demanding work schedules, a multitude of community and family commitments, and even the basic chores of life can often leave many of us feeling depleted. Then, throw into the day-to-day mix, some minor crisis and/or irritation, such as the washer quit working, the car is making a funny noise, or __________ is getting sick, and we begin to wonder how we will ever get through the coming day, much less the week.
I was reflecting on this thought, not only from personal experience, but also from experiences of others. In a recent conversation with a young mother, I listened to the challenges she faces as she tries to balance the increasing demands of work, family life–especially her growing children’s varied activities/interests–and several house issues that require extra time, money, and attention. It was clear, in spite of her ability to joke about it, that she was completely frazzled and worn out. My heart went out to her.
Haven’t we all been there? Perhaps we may not have experienced her exact circumstances; nonetheless, feeling overwhelmed and over-extended is certainly a relatable human experience. We all encounter rocky times along life’s path, and those times may feel like insurmountable stumbling blocks. In fact, we may indeed stumble, stutter-step, and fall off the path, but the question is, can we then use those same life boulders as stepping stones?
Later in the same week, I found myself once more engaged with a parent of younger children. In this conversation a young man was describing the demands of balancing the needs of his three children, whom he clearly adored, his beloved wife, and his work. He described a recent experience in which he begrudgingly attended a study group at his church with his wife in the midst of a grueling week.
“I did not want to go,” he said.
Once there, however, he realized that it is at the busiest or most stressful times when he most needs to take some time for renewal if he truly wants to be of service at home or at work.
Driving along a hill lined road a few days later, I observed a tree that seemed to grow out of the rocky rise. Its multiple roots wrapped around and over the rock-defined prominence. I marveled at the tree’s ability to stay rooted and find nourishment in such an unlikely environment.
In fact, later that day, I took time to read an article or two about trees that can live in rocky soil. I was stunned to learn that there is a wide variety of hardwood and softwood trees that can live in stony soil, including fruit trees. It was the fruit trees that most surprised me because not only is the tree tasked with the job of sustaining and growing its root system, trunk, limbs, and leaves/needles, but it also must produce enough nourishment for the additional task of fruit growth.
As I read these articles, I found that many trees’ roots have the ability to adapt and thrive in rocky, stony, or even compacted/dry soil. Furthermore, many trees that are drought tolerant have shallow root systems. This adaptation offers them the ability to grow in rocky soil as their roots seek and stretch to find sources of water and nourishment. Additionally, there are other trees with deeper root systems that somehow find a way to burrow in between rocks to find water and nutrients. Regardless of the type of root system, the one commonality among all trees is the fact that they use those boulders and rocks as stepping stones from which they extend their branches towards the heavens, rising above a so-called inhospitable environment.
In an era of disparate sound bites, images of divisiveness and dissonance, and all the demands of life, we must strive to live more like the rock loving, sand embracing, and drought tolerant trees. We must continually seek and stretch towards our true source of life, the great I AM. It may be difficult, as life throws us one challenge after another. Therefore, we must take time to mimic those rock-loving trees by rooting down to rise up in order to offer our unique gifts–our fruit–to the world.
Taking time to routinely root down into our inner faith world, allows us to rise above the stumbling blocks of life. Root down to rise up. Depending upon your faith and/or religious practice, that regular practice of “rooting down” may look different from one person to another in the same way trees’ roots vary. However, they all serve the same purpose: anchoring us to our true foundation, keeping us straight and stable, and providing us with the ability to absorb the good and filter out the bad, storing-up a wide array of resources for when times get, well, even rockier.
With the foundation of a well-established root system, we become like the trees that thrive in rocky and dry environments. We can climb around, over, and sometimes even remove life’s stumbling blocks, so we too can rise up, stretch towards our higher power, in order to produce more fruit, especially in our busiest times. Root to rise.