Sometimes the difference between thriving and dying is in where we sink our roots.
True, the trees in Yellowstone could not control where their seeds fell. But we, unlike the trees, can control where we sink our roots. We do not have to extend them down into the poisonous lake.
I know people who have chosen to sink their roots into bitter, poisonous waters. They are bitter or angry at other people or at God, whom they feel let them down. Perhaps something that they wanted—fervently desired—did not come to them. Or perhaps some evil—something we call tragedy—befell them. They blame someone else, or they blame God. The way their lives have turned out is all His fault because He did not give them what they hoped for or wanted, or He did not keep them from some trial. They sink the roots of their thoughts deeper into the bitter waters.
Often I have wondered how their lives might turn out if they chose to draw nourishment from other sources.
Many years ago, there was a job I wanted in the organization where I worked. When the opening came, I thought my experience and background suited me perfectly for it. I could imagine myself making great contributions in that position. I even prayed for God to help me get the job if it was His will.
The position went to someone else. At the time it was a bitter pill to swallow. I wondered if I was simply not good enough to be considered.
I lived to see how the position and that department changed, and how it would not have been the right place for me. Had I been hired for that job, I would have missed out on other opportunities that came later—special blessings the Lord had prepared. I would never have achieved some of the things it was my privilege to accomplish.
There are numerous references in the Bible to the Lord’s faithful followers as His vineyard, its people carefully nurtured (see, for example, Isaiah 5:7, Luke 13:6-9). There is a fuller treatment of the theme in the Book of Mormon—Jacob chapter five. It tells of a husbandman who plants some of his olive trees in unfavorable, rocky ground. Still, with His careful nurturing, they thrive.
I was born with a very visible birth defect that was a source of some taunting and bullying when I was a boy. I grew up without a dad because my father was killed in a car accident when I was 21 months old. My widowed, working mother’s income was for many years below the government’s poverty line, and as boy I sometimes wore hand-me-down clothes. (To be honest, we were never “poor”; my mother faithfully tithed her income, and the Lord blessed us, literally opening the windows of heaven [Malachi 3:8-10] at times.)
But my challenges are small compared to those of many other people. My challenges are important only to me, and only because of growth they have brought. Through them, my Father taught me. I mention them only to make this point: Each of us could identify things in our lives that we might consider unfair–instances where we believe God or others slighted us. We can choose to drink deeply of the poisoned waters by brooding about those things.
Why not choose to look instead at the ways our God has nurtured us with richness of opportunity and experience? Sometimes that opportunity came disguised as a challenge.
Instead of lamenting the forbidding soil from which we sprang, why not choose to bear abundant fruit anyway, responding to the tender, nurturing hand of the Master of the vineyard?