For years I have spent extensive time communing with God in my garden. That’s when I have some of the most poignant experiences with God. This last week, I was working outside and I was going to transplant a lavender plant to my new garden from a pot. As I tried to dig out the lavender plant, it wouldn’t budge. In fact, I broke my pot. No big deal – I’d had it for 15 or 20 years, so it was okay.
Since it was broken, I started peeling back the sides of the pot to get to my plant. That’s when I found that the contents of the pot were severely rootbound. The term “rootbound” means that the roots of a plant have completely taken up space within the pot that contains it, often circling and creating a dense web of roots. This can form a compacted, hard ball that will slide out of the pot in a mass, retaining the shape of the pot.
It wasn’t just the lavender doing this, though. Over the years that I had owned this pot, I had planted more into it. I had wondered where my bulbs had gone, but blamed it on pesky squirrels. Well, I found the answer as I unraveled the roots and found dozens of bulbs. Everything was so compacted in this planter that only the things on the very top of the pile were growing – and barely doing even that.
You see, as roots take over the interior space of a container, little room is left for soil to hold water, which may lead to root death. Allowing root-bound plants to continue to grow in this fashion will not only stunt the plant’s growth, but also it can bring about the plant’s overall demise. My bulbs were there, but they weren’t able to grow. They were stuck – trapped in place with others just like them.
Immediately, God whacked me with this lesson. The lesson is quite timely as we have gone rounds with COVID-19. God showed me that this is the church. We love good roots. We put them down and hope to be beautiful for God in a place. However, our building (the pot) often constricts us. Then, without realizing it, we become rootbound. We get stuck with ourselves and others just like us, not growing, not thriving, and on the path toward demise. Sometimes new people (new bulbs) are added to our mix, and they may shine for a while on the top, but ultimately cease to be what they were intended to be. Such a situation doesn’t mean we’re not being watered and fertilized. Rather, it means that we are so stuck inward that we aren’t becoming all that we were destined to be – bringing glory to God in the process.
As Christians, we are called to be rooted and grounded in love through Christ (Ephesians 3:17). But nowhere in scripture do I see that we are called to be stagnant. Rather, we are called to go (Matthew 28:19-20). Through COVID-19, I have especially come to see that the church is not a building. The Church is who we are in Christ – people, meant for relationships and meant to draw others to Christ. If we are rootbound, we are not able to do that. So how do we do this?
Intentionally get outside the doors of the building. Many of us can’t wait to be back together at our church building (note that wording – “church building,” showing that it is a building at which the church gathers). There is nothing wrong with gathering together. We are encouraged in scripture to do just that. But God asks more of us than that. First and foremost, we must be salt and light to a world, and we can’t do that if we’re stuck in place.
The bulbs that I dug out of their rootbound home were enough to create three rows of bulbs in front of my dining room window. What had been unproductive chunks will now thrive where they have room to grow and attract others to see their beauty for years to come.