Originally published by me elsewhere in 2009 with a couple of updates
Have you stopped lately to take it in? Have you looked at around lately?
I drove through the Northern part of our county yesterday. I had forgotten how many different shades of green were possible. The evergreens that have stayed that way all winter did not express the same flare for sprouting new greens save the very tips of their new growth, but the others... Wow! So many tender greens accenting the deep, deep blue sky interrupted only by the occasional wisp of a cirrus cloud lazily hanging there set my soul at rest. I decided that I must drive further. I turned down a road I had never been on before. I felt it would be alright because it had one of those blue signs at the junction signifying that it was maintained by some governmental agency so I knew that it would more than likely come out somewhere that I could find my way home from. It really didn't matter, I had a full tank of gas in my Volkswagen and I could always back track if I had to.
Our county used to have a healthy rural population judging from the abandoned houses, empty churches, and family cemeteries that dot each and every road I have traveled here. I wonder what events made these folks leave their home? Why would so many people abandon their roots?
I stopped at one of the graveyards to look at some of the stones. I was curious as to how long they had been around. Some had dates in the 1760s. Others were so worn that there were illegible. Still there were a few that really caught my eye. They had been made from a type of stone full of sea shells. The wind and the rain had reduced them down to jagged half-ovals jutting up from the Alabama dirt. I wondered how long those had been there. Someone knew who these people were. The graveyard, at least a 30 minute drive from anywhere, was manicured. I do not mean cut, I mean manicured. The grass was neatly trimmed. Each stone, even the ones that you can't read had the grass neatly pulled from around the base of each stone. It had not been done with a weed-eater either. Someone had been there on their hands and knees and pulled the grass. You don't do this kind of work in a place like this if it does not matter. Those grass roots had been pulled by someone with deeper roots to this place. But where are they now? Where were they on this gorgeous day? From this hilltop I could see the gently rolling hills in every direction. If I cared enough to get on my hands and knees to pull grass from illegible and weather worn tomb stones in this place, why didn't I live here anymore?
The abandoned house beckoned my attention. There it stood. The roof having long since given way to the heavy sunlight shining down into the rooms made me think about how many of these people, the ones now marked by stone, once received shelter in the house. How many of them sat on the now dilapidated porch and enjoyed this view? And if so many generations had once called this place home, why not the current generation? Their attachment to this place is still strong... I could tell by the care given to the stones memorializing their ancestors. Could the grass be greener somewhere else? Could the sky be any bluer? What reason makes someone abandon their roots? I suppose I will never know.
As I stood among the stones I felt insignificant. I remembered what James wrote about my life being a vapor and all. I thought about my roots. I grew up a military brat. We moved every three years or so. Roots? Do I even have any "roots" that matter?
My roots lie in the truth of family. Sharon, Gabby (Ryan), and Joe. They are my immediate family. My Mom, my Dad, my brother... they are my roots. They are my personal history. I cannot accurately trace multiple generations on either side. But this I do know and appreciate, the ideal of deep roots in my family lies in the beauty of American freedom. The ideal of freedom and justice for all. The belief that all men are endowed by their Creator...
My roots are deeper and stronger than soil. They are bigger than a piece of land in a single state. They are more expansive than the generations of a single family. My roots are are deep. They evoke emotion every time I see a flag. They boom with pride every time I hear a patriotic song. They give my blood pressure a rise every time I hear about someone disrespecting our ideals. I have a "family" bond with every single person who has ever dedicated themselves to these ideals. There is nowhere that I can go that my roots do not go with me. I do not have to travel down a back road to get back to my roots. I have roots. Big, deep, strong, roots. They go further back than the evidence of what I see on this hilltop.
But I am pretty insignificant. Actually, I am extremely insignificant. More than likely there will be no one to get on their hands and knees two-hundred years from now to pull weeds from the base of a stone marking my existence. My legacy, I hope, will be a legacy of love. A legacy of God's love. It does not matter if my progeny remember me or even my name. It does matter to me, however, that they remember my God. My prayers are not that I leave a big name for myself, but that I leave the biggest name on the lips of those who come after me. That is the name of JESUS.
Standing on this hilltop I am beginning to rediscover the beauty of this life. This short, insignificant, beautiful life.... the dazzling beauty of Spring... All of this has roots in something much larger than anything I can begin to comprehend. It is all rooted in the glory of eternity. Everything is rooted in the glory of the creator. My roots in this story go back to two other hilltops. One hilltop where God demonstrated His love for me. And another hilltop, two thousand years after that in Tennessee where I found out about this love for me. My roots now stretch both directions into eternity. But they are not so that I am remembered. "My" roots are His glory. The blue sky, the greenery of Spring scream of the everlasting beauty of real roots. The beauty in this life exists only to declare His glory.
If you want to rediscover the beauty of this life, rediscover the beauty of His glory.
p.s. Today as I write this, the sky is grey. It is raining and life is still every bit as beautiful.