Spirituality of a Taproot

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The image of the taproot.
My friends visited a vineyard recently and shared with me this image:
A stressed vine is a healthy vine.

Let me repeat.
A stressed vine is a healthy vine.

This is not one of those immediately applicable images for which the heavens part and we immediately grasp that-- yes! a stressed Megan or a stressed Mom or a stressed student or a stressed teenager or a stressed person is a healthy Megan, Mom, student, teenager, or person. But it is a miracle of nature that a stressed vine is a healthy vine.

So why would you observe this in nature? That in the case of a vineyard, a stressed vine is a healthy vine? Prepare for some science.

The vine has a taproot from which it receives its water. The taproot will naturally grow as deep as the water it needs reside. So in a season of sufficient rain, the taproot will grow near the surface, receiving water from the taproot in the immediate soil.

Seasons of stress drive the taproot deep into the soil. Seasons of stress for the vine are primarily seasons in which water is withheld. I’m a bit dense. It’s 5am, so let’s try that again.

A stressed season is a season in which water is withheld.

Who’s withholding water from a vine? You want wine after all, which definitely requires water. The vinedresser knows that a stressed vine is a healthy vine, and so she will withhold water from her vine in order that the taproot will grow more deeply, seeking water. The taproot will grow more deeply when the topsoil, the soil near the surface of the plant, is providing insufficient water.

So the vinedresser withholds water from the vine for a season, ensuring that her vine’s taproot will grow deeply and have a source of deeper water so that when a dry season comes, she is not tapped out (sorry, couldn’t resist).

A stressed vine is a healthy vine because her taproot has rooted herself into the deep, rich source of water available far below the surface. Because her careful vine dresser has withheld surface water for a season, deeper nutrients are available to her in seasons of unexpected stress.

How’s this picture working for you?

It’s working for me right now. I even think my careful vinedresser has prepared me for a season of withholding by showing me the sustenance available below the surface level of my faith. I have been sitting every morning this week in the words of Psalm 46. Here the Psalmist introduces us to the tumultuous nature of the world in which mountains are literally being hurled into the sea. He concludes with, “Be still.” For the God who throws mountains into the sea, the Lord of the angel hosts, is with you. He is your fortress-- an immovable place-- when mountains are being hurled into the sea. I cannot imagine any place being safe when mountains are being hurled into nonexistence. And yet, God promises us that even when he is in the business of absolute destruction of all that surrounds, he is in the business of protecting us.

When you feel you are in a season of being withheld from-- loneliness, uncertain health diagnosis, unanswered questions, temporary living situations, without work, empty bank account, a string of “no’s” or “not yets,” persecution; when your surface level soil isn’t providing the nutrients you’re used to-- when your friends, spouse, calendar, devotional time, sense of calling, go-to verse, vacation, exercise plan aren’t delivering what you need; will you allow me to remind you of the nutrients available just a bit deeper? Will you allow the vinedresser to send your taproot deeper?

A stressed vine is a healthy vine.
Times of stress can be opportunities to send your taproot down deeper.

More fulfilling nutrients with a better promise of satisfaction are available in the Word of God, below the surface areas from which you are used to receiving the love, acceptance, and assurance you need. There is an invitation to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and receive grace to help in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Let us allow God to send us deeper into his Word when we feel lonely and unsatisfied, that we may find the truth that will enable us to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness in the season to come. May we not squander our vinedresser’s season of withholding so that we will have access to the nutrients we need in the season of harvest to come.

Better nutrients are available below the surface.
God’s Word supplies more richly than the platitudes often repeated.
Tapped out? Go deeper.