From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a July 1998 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Because Richard has an unusu­al­ly busy sched­ule, he asked me to share with you a growth expe­ri­ence in my life. Beside one of the main streets in the small town where Phil and I once lived stood a tree I often admired. Its trunk was erect and straight. Its crown was well shaped — a round, sym­met­ri­cal globe — and its leaves were thick and lux­u­ri­ous, pro­vid­ing a home for the birds and shade for a house. But one morn­ing I was shocked to see that the tree had fall­en over, roots and all. Dur­ing a storm the pre­vi­ous day the wind had blown hard, but it was not that strong; the ground had become wet, but it was not that sog­gy. It appeared that the tree did not have a good root sys­tem. When the wind blew and the rain fell, it could not with­stand the onslaught.

This tree is a snap­shot of the con­di­tion of count­less peo­ple in our time. We have buns of steel” and chis­eled” physiques and per­fect hair­cuts and impec­ca­ble clothes. Our con­tri­bu­tions of time and mon­ey to wor­thy caus­es is unmatched by any oth­er civ­i­liza­tion in his­to­ry. But every­thing is exter­nal; we lack the roots,” the depth, to sus­tain us dur­ing the storms of life. When one hits us, we top­ple. At the begin­ning of chap­ter 1 in Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline, Richard writes: The des­per­ate need today is not for a greater num­ber of intel­li­gent peo­ple, or gift­ed peo­ple, but for deep peo­ple.” And the ques­tion that most of us ask is, How do I become a deep per­son?” Let me make three suggestions.

Root­ed in God

We devel­op a con­ver­sa­tion­al rela­tion­ship with God. As a tree seeks and finds water, the flu­id infil­trates the tree and its roots grasp the earth. Sim­i­lar­ly, as we talk with God about what we are doing togeth­er, God per­me­ates us and we become anchored to him. It is, as Dal­las Willard writes in In Search of Guid­ance, God indwelling his peo­ple through per­son­al fel­low­ship.” This per­son­al fel­low­ship pro­vides the liv­ing water we need to survive.

We prac­tice the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines of prayer, soli­tude, study, wor­ship, con­fes­sion, silence, fel­low­ship, and more. It makes no dif­fer­ence whether our list is the same as Dal­las Willard’s or Richard Foster’s or Siang-Yang Tan’s, or whether we name them Dis­ci­plines of Absti­nence or Dis­ci­plines of the Spir­i­tu­al Life or Dis­ci­plines of the Holy Spir­it. What mat­ters is that we do them. Sim­i­lar to the trunk and branch­es of a tree, the dis­ci­plines chan­nel God’s liv­ing water through­out our being, giv­ing us nour­ish­ment to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly and strength to stand firm. Dal­las writes in The Spir­it of the Dis­ci­plines that A suc­cess­ful per­for­mance at a moment of cri­sis rests large­ly and essen­tial­ly upon the depths of a self wise­ly and rig­or­ous­ly prepared.”

We place dis­ci­ple­ship to Jesus at the very heart of the gospel” (Willard, The Divine Con­spir­a­cy). A tree brings shel­ter and shade to all the crea­tures who come to it — insects, birds, ani­mals, humans. Jesus’ stu­dent brings life to oth­er peo­ple — poor and rich, sick and healthy, old and young, sad and hap­py — by imi­tat­ing his Teacher. A tree gets sus­te­nance from water, sun­shine, and oth­er nat­ur­al ele­ments; an appren­tice of Jesus gets sus­te­nance from his life flow­ing through her. A tree pro­duces life-giv­ing oxy­gen; Jesus’ dis­ci­ple pro­duces life-giv­ing disciples.

So, the sto­ry of a tree with shal­low roots reminds us that our hid­den life in God sus­tains us. The exam­ple should moti­vate us to send our roots deep­er into that Life.


Lyn­da L. Graybeal

Text First Published July 1998

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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