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Thinking Differently About Roots

Thinking Differently About Roots


I am part of that group known as “GRITS” - girls raised in the south. I was born in Florida and spent my most formative years there. Well before the various ancestry databases were put on the internet (before there was even an internet), both my parents could trace their histories back multiple generations, even as far as the Revolutionary War. My southern roots run deep; I was well into adulthood before my career prompted me to move away. 

I’m more than one of the GRITS, though. Where my “people” are from is just one of countless labels that could be used to describe me. I’m sure that’s true of you, too. 

We all anchor our identities in things like where we’re from, our career choices, sports allegiances, religious affiliations, and political parties, to name just a few. These descriptors become part of our personal narrative that helps us (and others) understand who we are. It’s pleasant to discover shared interests - or establish the basis for some good-natured ribbing - in order to enjoy common ground with other people. 

But I wonder if there is a different way to think about our roots?

What if we tied our identity to our relationships, not defining ourselves according to external measurements like those above, but by who we are to the people whose lives are intertwined with ours? 

There are the people we love and those who love us. We don’t mind camping out on those relationships and letting them color our past, inhabit our present, and shape our future. They’re the ones we enjoy investing in and want to share with others.

But there are also people who have hurt us and people who have let us down, even people who really don’t like us one bit. That gets messy. Do we really want to let those relationships have a say in who we are and how we are known?

In fact, those could be among the most important marks of our identity: how we respond to those we struggle to love and those who treat us with contempt.

It’s clear from the Bible that these relationships are exactly the ones we should give special attention to. “Loving our enemies” (Luke 6:27-36) calls for more than just a teeth-gritting, wooden smile kind of response. It requires that our hearts change, that we begin to look at and relate to those we call our “enemies” in the same way Jesus does. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

The only way that’s going to happen is for us to draw strength from a whole different kind of root system, the root system of Jesus, who declared Himself “the true vine”. (John 15:1) As we are grafted onto Him through faith, we bear the kind of fruit that identifies us with Him (Galatians 5:22). That’s not fruit we can will ourselves to produce; that’s the fruit of the Spirit of God in us.

Being known for our love, even in relationships where it’s difficult, unreciprocated, misunderstood, or even rejected, marks us as belonging to Him. 

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging our roots in family history, our faith traditions, our political leanings, career choices, or even team loyalties. But what matters most is that we are rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17-19) so that in all our relationships we reflect our true identity in Christ.   

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