Should We Embrace Our Roots?

"I Embrace My Roots" painting by nakedpastor David Hayward

“I Embrace My Roots” painting by nakedpastor David Hayward

OWN THIS ORIGINAL ACRYLIC ON CANVAS PAINTING

Right from the start I want to say that I am only sharing my perspective from my experience and study. This is my journey I’m sharing. Not yours. But I think it can apply.

I am not only a survivor of deconstruction, but a thriver. I’ve made it! I have travelled the treacherous path. It has taken me many years, lots of study, and much contemplation. This is not to say I’ve arrived, but that I’ve mastered it. I am, like many of you, an expert in deconstruction. I have a wealth of experience and insight. So I feel it is my responsibility, as well as my joy, to help others along similar paths. If any of what I write is helpful for you, then I am very pleased.

One of the most important moments in our personal spiritual development is when we embrace our independence and become responsible, sovereign adults. In other words, a crucial turning point in our spirituality occurs when we claim and assume authority over our own lives and we become spiritually autonomous and independent. This includes our theology.

But what do we do with what we knew? What do we do with our previous religious experience? What do we do with the Christianity we adopted?

James Fowler, in his important book Stages of Faith, claimed that if people reach stage 5 in their spiritual journey, they begin to accept the mysteries and paradoxes of life. They also often return to the sacred stories and symbols of their religious heritage but without being stuck in a theological box.

Similarly, M. Scott Peck in the stages of spirituality delineated in his book A Different Drum, says that if people reach the later stage of spirituality, they begin to realize that, mysteriously and paradoxically, there is truth to be found in the earlier stages of their spiritual lives.

We’re talking about our roots. So, I would like to examine this as though we were examining our roots.

APPRECIATE MY ROOTS FOR WHAT THEY ARE:

I appreciate my roots. I decided some time ago that it was unnecessary and even unhealthy for me to reject them. Oh, I did for a time, but I’ve come to realize this isn’t good. There was a lot I didn’t agree with. But there was also a lot of good that contributed to who I am. I am who I am in part because of my religious roots. Like it would be foolish for me to see a beautiful rose bush and figure its roots were ugly, dirty, unnecessary and dispensable, neither do I do that with my own life. I learned a lot of good things that are still meaningful to me. I experienced a lot of good things in Christianity and the church that I still treasure. Even though my religious roots are tangled, dirty, messy, and spread all over the place, there are a lot of them that have been helpful, nourished me and perhaps even kept me alive. So in many ways I keep my roots. Like Jesus’ proverbial tree, though, I dig around them, fertilize them, and trim away that which is dead. And, yes, there’s plenty of dead and even harmful stuff that has to be trimmed away. This means I appreciate the bible, the faith and the church, but now on my own terms. I value them. I have even needed them. They have nourished me and made me what and who I am today. But, I don’t accept all of it. I trim them or keep them and appreciate them for what they are. I am familiar with the stories of the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of David, the God of Jesus, the God of Paul. I’m grateful for it. I will be a first-hand witness to what fruits these roots will bear in my life.

APPRECIATE MY ROOTS FOR WHAT THEY ARE NOT:

My roots are not my fruits! One of the biggest problems with Christianity today, as with all religions, is their absolute and unquestioning allegiance to the past. There is undue focus on the roots as the whole deal. Oh what wonderful roots! Let’s conserve them! In fact, Christianity made a point of cementing their roots in perpetual preservation forever to be worshipped, adored and obeyed without question for all infinity. It’s like Christianity concluded that all that could be revealed or believed has been and so it locked in its account settings in perpetuity. And it did this vicariously for you and every other person in its wake. As a result all we have is a splendid root preservation. Like a museum! Frozen specimens! Abraham’s had his revolutionary revelation of God. Moses had his revolutionary revelation of God. David had his revolutionary revelation of God. Jesus had his revolutionary revelation of God. Paul had his revolutionary revelation of God. Finished! Done forever and ever. All of these are fruits that have withered and died and fallen to the ground, split open and spilled into the earth to nourish the roots, but also to plant new seeds for further growth and more varieties of fruit. I believe it’s my responsibility, and yours, to have our own revolutionary revelation, our own vision quest, even if it means the withering, dying, falling and spilling of the beliefs we’ve inherited. This is what is called deconstruction! Without this unsettling process we wouldn’t experience the necessary development of our own spirituality or see our own fruit.

I believe we are living in a very fertile age. The ground is rich for nourishing our roots and for creating new fruit. But we have to be willing. This takes courage. It not only takes courage to face the personal hostility within our own hearts and minds towards this journey, but to also face the hostility of those around us. I recognize in almost everyone I meet an essential bravery and integrity to break up the ground around their roots, to fertilize them, and to give them the space to grow into something profound… their own, distinctive and independent spirituality.

Your roots are good.
Therefore, your fruits will be too!

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2 Responses

  1. David Waters says:

    For me… it was to break free from the roots that I was born into and to create new roots of my choosing. As a leaf falls from a tree, it fertilizes the roots of the tree that produced it. We have the responsibility to choose which tree to fertilize. Be the tree.

  2. I wonder though if your roots that you believe you’ve severed are not still at work.