There is one thing that keeps sticking in my brain. We visited a park in the middle of town and there were huge banyan trees. I’ve had never actually seen these trees up close before. They are weird and beautiful.
The way they grow fascinates me. They start as a seed and the shoot drives upward, growing and growing. Once the tree is big enough it grows branches and then something changes. They start to grow these thick vines that grow downward and eventually reach back to the ground and take root. Those vines become a new extension of the trunk. The result is a tree that is simultaneously growing up, growing back down to the earth, gaining incredible size and strength. Banyan trees can grow 100 ft tall and 50 ft in diameter.
For a long time I’ve embraced the analogy that as people who follow Jesus, we are constantly growing. We are rooted in Jesus and we grow and mature and reach out to the world around us with the love of Christ. My church uses a tree as a symbol for this kind of growth. I like it. I love a good analogy. But the tree is always a mighty oak. It begins with its roots and it matures and it reaches out-- up, up, up, into the sky. One way.
I’ve had several conversations in the past few months with parents who are deeply concerned about the faith of their kids. They passionately want their children to be rooted in Jesus. They want them to grow up and live in faith. They want to see their children mature and change the world with the Gospel. It’s beautiful. But those same parents carry fear in their hearts, they ask themselves, “Will their roots be strong enough?”
I find incredible comfort in the banyan tree. This crazy plant is constantly growing-- but in all different directions. Its branches don’t just reach out to the sky, it grows upward AND downward. It seeks out continued strength and nourishment from the soil.
What a perfect analogy for our growth in Christ. We are deeply rooted in Jesus, and as we grow we reach out into the world around us while we are also dipping our roots back into life-giving soil. We are constantly reaching out and maturing in faith. It’s what we are designed to do. The banyan tree begins dropping roots early in its life. We have a rhythm in the life of the church that helps is to drop roots. We gather together as the Body of Christ. We dip our roots in the soil-- we join together to receive the forgiveness of sins, to be encouraged by others, to hear God’s word. The Spirit works in our hearts and we continue to grow.
The banyan tree helps me see that we are constantly growing and maturing in faith. We are both growing in spiritual maturity while we reach out to our neighbors. The banyan tree doesn’t stop reaching its branches outward so that it can grow its roots downward-- it happens simultaneously. Our roots don’t just grow early in our faith life, they are an ever changing system of strength that are designed to withstand whatever God has planned for us.
May your roots in Jesus continue to grow and be strengthened as you grow in faith.