I’ve been thinking a lot about rootedness lately - actually, becoming a little obsessed with it.
There’s something about my here-to-for nomadic lifestyle coupled with having a baby that has made me ponder the importance and meaning of roots.
Initially I was thinking of it in relational and geographic terms. I’m a military brat with no sense of physical ties to any one location. I’ve continued moving locales and changing scenery into my adult years - each move has gotten progressively more difficult, but the idea of “settling down” and staying somewhere is also difficult for me.
In spite of this, I don’t feel at all “unrooted” in an existential sense. I have strong ties to my family, and have maintained strong friendships over the years and across the miles with people around the world. Yet since having a baby and moving cross-country only two months into her life, I’ve been overthinking the importance of creating a stable environment. I obsess about things like changing her daycare or introducing a new babysitter; the upheaval caused by taking a trip to see family or bringing her with me on my Air Force assignments.
Does physical location matter? Are relationships what really give someone a sense of roots, of ties, of belonging? I certainly feel the benefits of moving around when I was a kid far outweigh any negatives I might have experienced. Was that because my parents, behind the scenes, worked to create an otherwise stable environment in ways I didn’t notice or appreciate then?
Then I read this meditation by St Hildegard (sidebar: I suggested a variation of this name, Hilde, for Junia before she was born and was quickly vetoed by Ryan …) -
giving life to all life ...
root of all things ...
you are our true life,
luminous, wonderful …
And I was struck by the components of both roots and luminosity as components of God’s being. I hadn't really thought of them in tandem before or as related to God inherently. In my meditation I had this image of God's roots taking hold in my being, growing like tentacles from my heart though my body. Meanwhile God's light was growing outward, shining from my heart.
I’m still working out how this all comes together, but I suspect that what I’m seeking - a sense of rootedness for myself, a grounding that I can pass on to my daughter - comes from within. From the tentacles of God’s roots growing through me and, ultimately, radiating out from me.
The other day I was listening to a speaker who contended that the mistake of our current method of self-discovery is we are always looking within, thinking the answer lies in ourselves. I disagree that this is a mistake. We are God’s image-bearers, a reflection and presence of God exists in all of us. How else can we understand ourselves if not by looking within to develop a better sense of that presence? Certainly God is not contained solely within me, nor is that the only place I should look to understand the divine or myself, but it’s certainly a start.
So I’ve come up with multiple external manifestations of rootedness - artwork, clothing, jewelry, even going so far as to have a tattoo designed (like I said, super into this) - yet I’ve only just started to wonder how rootedness may already exist within me. How can I let God take root so this becomes an inside-out project? How can I accept God’s existential steadfastness in my physical experiences of uprootedness?
I know that the answer must somehow lie in how I join these existential realizations to my physical being in the world. For all the time I’ve spent developing my theology and cultivating spiritual practices, I frequently find myself acting in contradiction to them. I have to remind myself to act in accordance with what I believe to be true.
I suspect allowing God’s rootedness in my heart to manifest itself in my life will be much the same - I’ll have to grow into it, one new babysitter at a time.