A time to plant and a time to uproot . . . (Ecclesiastes 3: 2b)
My Dad is a pastor. I remember well being in the car with him one day during my junior year of high school and telling him, “I’ll never do what you do.” The remark was not intended as a criticism. I wasn’t arguing with him. I wasn’t making a statement of rebellion and asserting my independence. I just didn’t want to be a pastor – because growing up in a pastor’s home I had come to associate ministry with moving. Leaving one place and going to another, leaving friends and making new ones, leaving the school I knew and going to one that I didn’t know, leaving the familiar for the strange.
When Solomon said there is a time to plant and a time to uproot, he probably had something agricultural in mind. But for me, to “uproot” isn’t something you do to a plant. It’s something you live; you may choose to do it or it may be done to you. It’s a life experience in which you are pulled away from your source of nourishment, strength, even life. This may be a move to new city, the loss of a job, the loss of memory, a death or a divorce. It can happen in so many ways, but what they all have in common is this: being ripped up from anything hurts.
God is a gentle gardener. He doesn’t tear us from the life-giving soil only to let us dry up or languish. Being uprooted means being planted again. The two belong together. The interesting thing about these seasons is their interdependence. You can’t get planted one place without being removed from another. Saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else. As Frost’s famous poem reminds us, to take one road means another will not be traveled.
Some of you this morning are in a season of being planted, putting down roots as you work hard at your career, raise your family, remodel the kitchen. Others of you are uprooted, not sure what’s next. Like a trapeze artist, you’re in that split second of being totally airborne, letting go of one thing, reaching for the next. It may feel like an eternity, but it’s only a season.
I’ve heard this line attributed to theologian Karl Barth: “Shall we never allow our hands to empty so that we can receive what only empty hands can receive?” That’s a great question to ponder in the “uprooted” season. We don’t like empty hands, but deprivation is a prelude to more grace.
Prayer: God, I will gladly put down roots where I am today, knowing that there may be a season when life is uprooted. In all seasons teach me to live before you open-handed, ready to receive grace in whatever form you choose to give it. Amen.