A few Saturdays ago, I sat in the yard as I watched my husband Michael do yard work. There is a tree in our yard and Mike was digging up some of the tree’s roots. Some of the roots had started to grow above ground and they interfere with mowing the lawn. Mike said that another concern was that, left unchecked, the roots would continue to grow until they reached the driveway and begin to tear up the driveway. His solution was to cut off and dig up some of the roots. Armed with a pickaxe and shovel, Mike went to work…again…because this wasn’t his first time uprooting these roots. There were some roots that had already been cut off from the tree, but they had not been dug up. I said earlier this was “yard” work, but as I watched him, I realized this was “hard” work. He had to first shovel around the root to loosen the soil, then use the pickaxe to get under the root and pry it up, repeating the process over and over because the roots were both long and deep and as he discovered, sometimes intertwined. I tried to help (a little), but this was back-breaking work and I am not as skillful as Mike with a shovel and pickaxe. What can I say? The man’s talented with his hands!
As my neighbor Felicia and I watched, we marveled at how long and how deep the roots were. We talked about family trees and how in family trees, the roots represent our ancestors and the branches and leaves represent present and future generations. We talked about how interconnected the roots were, twisted together. I mentioned earlier that Mike had cut some roots before. We discovered that those roots had remained connected under the surface to other roots and continued to live because they fed off other roots. That sounds like family to me! So, whether it’s a physical tree or a family tree or some other kind of tree, the roots are long and deep and intertwined, and they nourish each other and they are visible and invisible.
As married couples, we must dig into our roots. We must explore how the roots from which we grew affect the branches and trees that will grow from us. We must dig individually and as a couple. How do my ideas about marriage affect me? These are the expectations I brought into the marriage based on the marriages (or lack of marriages) I saw as a child. If marriage isn’t what I expected it to be, can I define my expectations and discuss them with my spouse? What about other roots such as prayer, intimacy, finances, divorce, infidelity, conflict resolution, and forgiveness? Again, the roots are long, deep, intertwined, visible, invisible, and some malnourished. How can we as a couple use this time (sheltered-in-place, working from home, restricted or limited travel, etc.) to do some digging…together?
I tried to wrap up my blog here, but my roots keep pulling me to go deeper. I am Robert and Deloris’ baby girl! My parents were integrators of a public school, marchers protesting the hanging of a black man in the county jail, political advocates who drove people to the polls and armed them with pre-filled ballots so they were informed voters. My siblings and I went into the poll booths with seniors who could barely read and write and assisted them in voting. My roots run deep in Marshall County, Mississippi.
It’s hard to write or think or breathe today without thinking about what’s happening in the world today. There are so many “isms” that need to be uprooted today. Racism. Sexism. Ageism. “I-want-my-child-to-come-home-safe”-ism. “I-want-my-husband-to-come-home-safe”-ism. “Black-Lives-Matter”-ism. Hatred. Poverty. Discrimination. Too many to name!
The soil of America needs to be loosened; the roots need to be exposed. Some roots need to be dug up and cut out. But where do we start? How do we do it? Stacey Abrams says, “Fill out the census.” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms adds, “Register to vote.” Others say, “Support Black businesses.” I don’t have all the answers. No one person does, but I believe one place to start is in our homes. I will start with my family. The conversations have started and are ongoing. We have conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable. We talk about what’s right and what’s “right now.” I tell my children about their roots. We talk about ways we can be socially active and make our voices heard. We talk about our biases and listen as they share their hopes and dreams. We are trying to do better so that the bitterness in our roots don’t spread to our branches and leaves. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews12:15) More than enough people have been defiled. It’s time to get to the roots and do the “hard” work and I’m committed to do the hard work that’s needed for our community, with my family and in my marriage… what about you?”