Root Bound Faith

cone flower

Another “Arizona Sun” in my yard

I have turned into the family gardener. Over the last two years, we have pulled out twenty-six, huge bushes that were about forty years old and replanted those areas with things we like a lot better.

One of those plants was a pretty little coneflower, called “Arizona Sun.” But unfortunately, it stopped blooming and suddenly looked anemic. When I replaced it after only a few weeks, I discovered the portion of the plant under the ground was still exactly the shape of the square container it came in.

The plant was root bound. I should have pulled the roots apart, breaking up the cube of potting soil. It happens with plants purchased late in the season.

Can our faith also become root bound? What happens if we are planted into the “container” of very old, highly structured institutions, a one-size-fits-all set of expectations, and a theology that has everything already figured out?

I know, the container is a very safe place. Its soil is high in nutrients and the plants are protected from the dangers of the outside environment.

Will the plant survive if removed and placed in unpredictable soil? It could be argued it needs the nutrients that can only be provided in the container. Some say the plant needs to be in the community of the other plants in the greenhouse. All kinds of dangers await a plant trying to “make it on its own.”

Yet, staying in the container too long also threatens the plant’s health. All of the nutrients and space for growth can be consumed, and then, the once flourishing plant begins declining.

It’s time for it to brave the great transition from container to the ground.

That transition from nursery to real world can be traumatic. Roots might need to be pulled apart. There must be complete and total contact with its new soil for the plant to make it.

The plant is still a plant. It still has nutrients, and all of the things it needs to grow. It just shed the container.

Now the plant is in real soil. It has real sunshine, real rain, and serious room to grow and take root in the real world.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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