A couple of weeks ago I transplanted a tree. In my head the chore seemed simple enough- dig up the tree, dig another hole (3 times the size of the root-base of the tree), drop the tree, add potting soil/fertilizer mix, top off with the dug up grass, wipe the sweat from my brow, call it a day. It didn't exactly work out like that.
I don't have a green thumb. I'm 3.5 for 7 successful in planting trees at my house. The half is for the tree I transplanted. I'm not ready to call it a success, but it's not yet a failure. It wasn't dying. But it wasn't growing either. Where I live, the ground is mostly clay, so it takes some work to get things to grow. This tree's roots couldn't spread and it wasn't getting enough water. Fill in your favorite agriculture reference from your Bible:
He (the one who delights in the law of the Lord) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:3)
Some fell on rocky places (or clay), where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. (Mark 4:5-6)
Since this tree didn't have much root, digging it up was the easy part. The trouble came digging the new hole. I knew it would have to be big, and that I'd have to fill it in with better soil than was there to begin with. What I didn't expect was how hard it would be to dig up the grass.
Grass gets a bad rap in the Bible. It quickly withers (Psalm 37:2, Ps 90:5-6, Ps 102:4 & 11, Ps 103:15-16, Ps 129:6, Isaiah 5:24, Is 15:6, Is 37:27, Is 40:6-8, Jeremiah 12:4, 1 Peter 1:24), is compared to the wicked (most of the same refs as before plus Psalm 92:7), and is thrown in the fire (Matthew 6:30, Luke 12:28, Revelation 8:7).
Yet it is the go-to popular ground-covering for our homes. Why? Because they're weeds. They don't require a ton of water, their roots entangle which preserves the soil from eroding or blowing away, and it is easy to plant.
It's the entangling roots that got me thinking. The hardest part was digging through this dense network of roots. The top layer of grass was a single piece. I couldn't just dig with my shovel and toss aside whatever came up with it. I had to literally cut out pieces of grass of manageable enough size to lift, and then dig my hole. Ok maybe that's obvious to the rest of you, but it wasn't to me.
Back to that network of roots. Isn't that how God wants us to be? Sure, we get the illustration of the tree planted by water. But I live in a desert and when I see trees like that, they are usually standing alone. But grass is plentiful. It spreads. And each blade depends on the others. Alone they are frail, but a five-foot across circle is strong (and heavy!).
You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth. (Job 5:25)
Let grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon; let it thrive like the grass of the field. (Psalm 72:16)
When you see this, your heart will rejoice
and you will flourish like grass (Isaiah 66:14)