Getting to the Root

Isaiah 11:1-3a (NIV)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.



In the wake of the devastating fire that destroyed the vineyard in the movie A Walk in the Clouds, the main character dug up the root of the vineyard’s original grape vine and discovered life still in it.

Sometimes, even when there has been refining fire burning in our hearts, if we were to dig a bit we could still find that the root from which our sin arose is still alive.

One morning as I sat with God I thought of a friend of mine whose family was going through a difficult time health-wise. Along with the thought came the idea that I should call her. Piggybacking on that idea was a sensation--one I had often felt but never inspected. I stepped back, wondering if I could separate the sensation from the idea. And I could. It was a burden sensation. Riding on the idea to call my friend was a burden sensation. There was no reason to feel this way--I loved my friend; I cared about what was happening with her family; I had time to call. What was going on here?

At that moment my Teacher showed my spirit a picture of the vine that grows at the side of our house. Although we had pulled it off the siding and made some attempt to get it out of the shrubbery, we hadn’t gone to the effort required to get to the root of it. Consequently, it continued to creep its way up the wall and around the bushes.

God seemed to be saying that although a lot of legalism had been refined out of my life, there was still a root somewhere that hadn’t been dealt with. There was still something causing me to miss the full freedom of God’s grace. ("See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up…"[Hebrews 12:15].)

The Word of God says, "…His commands are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). Could it be, therefore, that this idea to call my friend wasn’t His command but my own idea? I had recognized already that I couldn’t attribute all my do-good ideas to God’s prompting. I had enough do-good ideas to last two lifetimes! If I followed up on them all, I wouldn’t have time to achieve any specific mission. It seemed to me there was an evil spirit with the full-time job of whispering do-good ideas into my ear to distract me from what God had for me to do and to give me every opportunity to feel guilty for not doing them all. Maybe the lesson I was to learn here was that if that burden sensation was piggy-backing on the idea, that was the clue for me to recognize that this was one of my ideas (or my enemy’s) and not one of His.

It seemed He was telling me He wanted me to sever the root of legalism. He seemed to be saying that I could do this by refusing to carry through on any idea that originated from any source other than Him. The way I was to distinguish the source was by whether or not the burden sensation accompanied the idea.

I thought about this radical idea. I pictured someone preaching a sermon telling people not to do the good things they thought to do! Eventually, though, I admitted that this made me uneasy because, for instance, if I didn’t call my friend, she would think I didn’t care.

Finally I had come to the root--or, at least, to one of the roots. A root of my legalism was the desire to look good to others. If I did only what God directed, He might not see to it that I did what would make me look good to others. What it came down to was a choice: did I choose to live by the approval (fear) of God or by the approval (fear) of man? Did I want the Root of Jesse or the root of legalism producing the fruit in my life?

As I made my choice and began to write about it in my journal the most God-motivated exuberant desire to call my friend rose up within my heart!