In the beautiful city of Charleston, SC, where I find my roots, is one of the oldest trees in North America. The Angel Oak is believed to be 1500 years old. Think of everything this tree has weathered. Raging Atlantic storms known as hurricanes, possible fires, drought, the sporadic wintry ice storm, colonization, scorching Charleston summer heat. It’s weathered it all and survived. Ask most tree experts and they’ll tell you why some trees survive better than others – the roots. It’s not the sprawling branches or the height of the tree that give the tree longevity. It’s the roots that have taken hold and stretched out; for some trees, roots go deeper than the tree is tall. The Angel Oak must have a beautiful and elaborate root structure – those roots are strong, deep, nurturing, and necessary. Without these amazing roots, the Angel Oak would not have survived so incredibly long.
So, what is this about roots? Am I suddenly a Dendrologist (a scientist who studies trees – big word I just learned today, too)? No. But I’ve been on this spiritual journey the past couple years – I wish I could sit down and write about it chronologically, explaining all the changes God’s done in my life. But for some reason, I’m not meant to be a novelist, telling my story by chapter and event. Instead, my method tends to be more ADD and I bounce from topic to topic… hence, that puddle of thoughts thing I call this blog.
My life the past year or so has been dominated by one question. Why do I believe what I believe? Seriously, that question can turn your life upside down… along with a specific prayer I’ll address in the coming days, nothing has changed my life and outlook so very much.
I want my beliefs to have strong roots. I want my beliefs to be something I can defend when called into question. I want my beliefs to impact me to my core – where my life, my behavior, my conduct can’t help but to reflect what I believe. I want my beliefs to be authentic and to have substance
Why do I believe what I believe? I’m not content with inheriting beliefs from my parents. I’m not content with incorporating a belief into my life because my husband believes something. I’m not content believing something just because a man in a pulpit told me I should believe something. I’m not content with believing something because a politician or talking head told me it’s best for my country or my pocketbook.
Matthew 13:3-6, 18-21 (NIV)
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Like the Angel Oak, I want my beliefs to be lasting. I want my root system to be strong. So, I’ve been digging deep into my beliefs. Sifting through the soil that surrounds the roots of my life. I’ve had storms in my life – I was shaken, I was broken a bit, and branches ceased growing. But I didn’t fall. So, after healing and after the storm clouds cleared, I begin to examine myself. What roots held me firm? What did I think was holding me firm, but really wasn’t?
So, throughout the past year or so, I’ve been rethinking my assumptions about many things. My husband’s had his own journey of sorts with this question of why you believe what you believe. His path has been different than mine, but we’ve both found ourselves arriving at similar conclusions. The roots of what we believe. The roots that matter.
And we find that in the ancient Christian creeds. There is so much confusion and division in the The Church as a whole, especially in the US, that if we as Christians could just look at our roots – these Creeds – we might be able to heal wounds caused by denominational bickering and find ourselves truly working toward a singular goal – God’s Kingdom.
So, my root – and one reason I’m finding solace in a different church tradition – the deepest root in my life is found in the words of the Nicene Creed. It’s like the Angel Oak of Church tradition and belief. The Creed and the beliefs stated within have lasted through the many storms that have raged against Christendom and yet, the Church still stands – worldwide – building the Kingdom today in every corner of creation. These are the beliefs that matter. As 15th century theologian Rupertus Meldenius said it, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.