When I was in elementary school, we did a unit on trees. We had a hands-on component that included some live saplings we got to plant in little pots – I remember them being huge, which probably means they were a couple of feet tall at the time.
I’m not sure whose idea this was, but we all got to take our saplings home at the end of the unit. For some reason, I took home two (maybe it was because another kid’s parents didn’t want to plant an ash tree in their yard). We chose a spot along our fence in our backyard and spent a Saturday morning planting those two trees.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but that would have been around 1990 or so, and my mom didn’t move out of that house until 2000, so I got to watch those two trees grow for a decade. And even though they grew right next to each other (maybe 20 feet apart), in the same soil, with the same water and sunlight, one grew strong and healthy and the other was stunted and sickly. My parents and I came up with all kinds of theories as to why they might grow so differently, but none of us were arborists and my elementary school tree training didn’t cut it for this sort of diagnosis.
We often feel a similar mystification when it comes to our faith. How many of us gather for worship and see people around us who just seem to get it while we don’t? We look at others’ faith and see a tall, healthy faith, but we look at ours and it seems… less. We wrestle with doubts and questions. We struggle in the face of adversity. We just don’t feel that spark.
I still don’t know anything about trees, but I know something about what it means to be rooted in life with God. So let’s explore the spiritual practices that help us maintain a vibrant, healthy faith.
Spiritual practices are pathways to a relationship with God. When we cultivate healthy spiritual habits, we are doing more than just learning about God, or choosing better habits. We’re rooting ourselves in the very source of our life, the one who created us and calls us and sustains us.