“Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”
Families are often compared to trees, a visual that reminds us of our lineage, how we are connected to one another through bloodlines. A few years ago, my aunt compiled a book of our family tree called “Ridley Roots” that traces our ancestry. Flipping through the pages, I’ve learned more about my lineage as I’ve gotten married and have had children of my own. Our story is still being written, branches are still being added to our family tree.
What is fascinating to me is that the comparison of families to trees is so often associated with the branches, when in fact, there is much to learn about the root. Scientists have begun to research more about the root of trees and have discovered that while a tree is a single, solitary entity, it is actually connected to all the other trees in the forest by their underground root systems. Trees have their own neighborhoods, root systems that allow them to intermingle, creating one single sprawling organism. These neighborhoods help trees receive nutrients but they can also spread disease.
Connection happens when we live in community with our family and friends, just like the trees in forests. We are interconnected, and have the ability to help one another stand tall or spread disease. When we are in a relationship with someone else, we are living life together, and being present in good times and bad. In scripture, the word “to know” is yada and it is used to describe a variety of senses, and to know relationally and experientially. It refers to taking time to observe, care, recognize, instruct, or punish. When we are connected, are these not the things that we do?
I find it so comforting that on the most difficult of days, when everyone seems to desert me, that I can find solace in the embrace of my people – my husband, my parents, my best friends, even my children. My people are also the first ones who know about the happy, the joy, and the excitement when something good happens to me, as well as the hurt, frustration, or anger when I receive bad news. They know me, and I know them.
Yada is also a term used in relation to God’s knowledge of people. God knows our hearts. David writes in Psalm 139:4, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” God knows us because He created us to connect with Him. He is with us when we suffer, and He cares about us deeply. God has designed man to share our burdens and our blessings with Him because God is Yahweh – “the LORD” – the One who will redeem His people.
We have been given people to love so that we can get a glimpse of His great love for us. The story of family is sprawled across the pages of scripture much like the roots of trees. We are His people, and He has given us His son. Isaiah writes, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1 NIV).” From Genesis to Revelation, God has written a Great Story that connects people in lineage with Him through Christ (Matthew 1:1-16 NIV). After Jesus’ death, Peter had a dream to go to the house of Cornelius, a God-fearing man who was also a Gentile. Cornelius welcomed him into his home and as Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard his message. For those of us who are not Jewish, our spiritual genealogy traces back to this moment. The Holy Trinity has perfectly planned for us to live lives of connection - Jew to Gentile, family to family, so that we may be people who give God glory for creation and redemption.
Let us love our people well by being grounded and rooted in faith, living as people who know God is with us. From the shoot to the stump, may we continue to place our hope in our Redeemer, even if we can’t see what lies underneath the soil.