With the right soil, a tree’s roots have the opportunity to grow as much as 20ft deep and more than 3x the width of the tree’s trunk–in fertile, unobstructed soil.
When it comes to family roots, the same is true. With the right soil to nourish relationships and no obstructions to stifle growth, a family’s roots can grow strong, deep, and wide. Why, then, are there so many broken family trees? They’ve been uprooted, cut off, or smothered by parasitic moss and rocks that hinder growth. The burden on the family seems to be so much greater than it was just 50 years ago. What changed?
I feel it would be unwise of me to try to explain away the problems of the times, especially since there are likely several changes at play. All I can do is tell my story from my perspective.
To stick with the imagery, if I am my own tree in my family’s forest, my roots have been inconsistently and unreliably nourished. (Some may view themselves as a more connected branch on their family’s tree, but I do not). I grew up in a broken home with a dad who left when I was only 3 months old and a barely present step dad who didn’t care about me. My mom was emotionally, and often physically, unavailable for too large a part of my childhood and my brother withdrew into his room with his video games. I spent most of my time alone. Throughout middle school I lost most of my close friendships and found it difficult to connect to people. My poor tree was small and searching for life.
I won’t go into too many details because they are sad, numerous, and I’m sure that no one cares too much to read them anyways. So i’ll leave it simply at the fact that abuse along with loneliness and a family full of strong personalities and short tempers left me desperate for love and connection that I was unable to trust anyone enough to receive and didn’t know how to give in return. I never felt at home. Way too many people can relate to this.
As a tree, I couldn’t grow. So I dug up my roots and took them elsewhere for replanting. For me, it took going away to college to finally begin to see what life could and should be like. I went to a Christian university where I was constantly reminded of how much God loved me (even if I didn’t understand what that meant yet) and where I met so many students who came from healthy families and so many others who didn’t. I gained perspective, learned what I wanted for my future family, and met families who I could look up to. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I was able to be my true self again and made friends from many different backgrounds who I could trust. I gained hope that my husband (then boyfriend) and I could create a new family forest with healthy soil where we could take on any of the inevitable obstructions together.
Now, we have a marriage that I feel safe in, a baby boy to teach better, a playfully obnoxious dog, and a church where we are building lasting connections- all in a city that finally feels like home to me. Our roots are growing strong, and deep, and wide, and they’re growing together.
Now matter how rough they might be, roots are important. They are our history and they make us who we are. When I decided to move mine, it didn’t mean that I was able to get rid of all the junk that had hurt them before. The damage remains, but it heals over time and new roots form.
What do your roots look like? Whether you’ve moved them, are trying to find a new place for them, or are strongly connected to a solid family forest, do not forget the history. It is your story. It will help you decide how you want to live. It’s never too late for new roots to grow.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…” Philippians 1: 6&9 ESV