Hosea, the story from where this Blog all started, was asked to love a girl – a prostitute – ruined and hurt by love, and he did, he loved her. Though loved with a deep and perfect love, this girl kept going back to her other lovers. She was so uncomfortable and wary of a Hosea type of love, that to love or be with someone casually, was easier than to put down her roots and establish herself in faithful love, finding there if she had been able to, all that she longed for and needed. This was a real love story, but a picture too, of God’s love for Israel, extending to all humanity.
Later on in Hosea’s story, God talks about one day – the one day when,
“I will plant her for myself in the land” (Hosea 2:23, NIV)
and Israel will,
“Like a cedar of Lebanon…send down his roots” (Hosea 14:5, NIV).
Saint Paul describes this as being, “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17-18, NIV).
One day is the day that God longs for. Where we begin to discover the knowledge and experience of living inside of His faithful and deep love. And that like Gomer, the girl in Hosea’s story, we can settle into God’s love and stop staggering around, looking for love everywhere else and in places where it cannot be found.
The sending down of roots, the growing tall, like the strong Cedar of Lebanon depicted in the book of Hosea, is an agricultural metaphor of God’s love.
A Cedar tree will grow up to 40 meters tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 meters in diameter. It is tall! It is also strong, and historically, the wood was prized for shipbuilding and in railway construction, both industries requiring timber that was tough enough to withstand the pressure of the rough seas, or the constant weight of a train rolling over it.
With the right environment and conditions for the roots to grow down deep and for the shoots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruit to be established, a tree will do all it is designed for, do what it is meant to, reaching its potential, living for its purpose, growing tall and strong. A Cedar like any other plant, never really deviates from its design and purpose. Sometimes disease or lack of water or nutrients can inhibit it, but in spite of that it is always working towards sending roots down, growing shoots up and producing its fruit. The tree knows its health and stability and fruit comes from being planted deep in the soil.
It would be comical to think of a tree wandering around searching for soil when all it needs to do is to put its roots down. And with this metaphor in mind, I wonder if we appear sadly comical?
The metaphor explained is this – being rooted and established is to have my life, my inner being, all of who I am anchored, stabilized, secured and held in place by God’s love. When strong winds come, when waves crash against me, when rains pour down or cease to in dry seasons, when I feel constantly run over like a train track, my life is deeply embedded – rooted – in love.
How does it work? It helps to consider another metaphor.
This one is in stark contrast to the Cedar who sends down its roots deep into the soil. It is a Tumbleweed. A Tumbleweed is a plant that is disengaged from
“where frequent wind and the open environment permit rolling around without prohibitive obstruction”.
A perfect analogy: where frequent wind (voices, schools of thought, ideas, philosophies, lies) and the open environment (the world we live in) permit rolling around (searching, seeking, looking for love) without prohibitive obstruction (without roots to secure and give stability).
Its amusing when you do research and discover things –
like an old western comic strip called Tumbleweeds, whose main character is of the same name, and like his namesake, he tumbles around life, avoiding his worst nightmare which is to be caught by, and married to Hildegard Hamhocker; or scientifically, in discovering that the Tumbleweed’s effective dispersal of seeds produces more of its own kind, more noxious Tumbleweed, thistle type seeds, as it tumbles around wherever the wind takes it –
and of the analogies these bring to this topic of a life that has no roots…
Tumbleweeds have another feature: they are dead! There is no life in them. They just roll around, collecting other dead, detached things as they go.
Tumbleweed love is an empty, dead pursuit of love, compared to the deeply rooted type of existence that a Cedar tree has.
When I look up the word “dead” to get
Are these words not true descriptors of love found in wrong places? Love from a selfish person, an abuser, a one-night stand, someone incapable of meeting all our love needs, all can be described in this way – cold, insensitive, useless. But it is also true in the other ways we try to find love – we look for it in things and substances and careers and experiences and fashion and wealth and power – all because love has not been able to be found in a person. Inevitably, we discover that these other loves cannot satisfy either. They leave us empty and continually searching for more, like the Tumbleweed that continually picks up debris and rubbish from wherever it rolls, dispersing our hurt, avoiding intimacy.
But in comparison is God’s love – it is life giving. Within the soil of God’s love is the stability, the water, nutrients and healing qualities that I so desperately need, and long for. And when I put down my roots deep into His love I am stable, I grow, I heal, I become strong, I am held safe.
Continued in next week’s blog…