Posts Tagged ‘bitter roots’

Grace is everything. If I could only grasp the full power of grace every day, nothing could cause lasting harm. Grace diffuses anger, despair, disappointments and resentments which all fuel bitterness. And bitterness hurts everyone.

Hebrews 12:15
Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it.

For some years I worked with the Elijah House ministries; I read many of the John and Paula Sandford books, I participated in the Basic School which taught the essentials of prayer for healing and how to recognize and address bitter root judgments. I met with my own counselor for several years.

So many early bitter roots are like persistent weeds in the garden that grow very deeply in the soil. They cannot be merely cut at ground level, they must be pulled out, otherwise, they will tend to grow back, sometimes larger, stronger, and even deeper than before.

Hurtful instances in our past act in the same way and can derail a life. My own life was on a treadmill of resentments about situations that were mostly outside my direct control: my father’s alcoholism and death when I was a child, my mother’s mental illness, our relative poverty, my brilliant brother, just to name a few. I had an internal tirade always playing in my head: why these parents, why this family, why this city, why this school, why this husband, and why this body. And the follow up to “why” became “if only” — if only I had more money, if only I had a different family, etc. The litany was endless. And each verse dug my roots in deeper and deeper.

When I began the healing process of allowing the Spirit to weed my garden heart, I thought I would explode into a million pieces. I had held on to those issues for so long that I didn’t know who I would be without them.

Although I was able to release many of my old hurts and habits, I recognize now that a life picks up other hurts along the way. Not all bitter roots come from childhood or even teen years, they can find yummy soil ten years ago or five or even yesterday. How deeply they are planted and how much I water my bitter roots will determine how easily they can be removed.

This is where grace comes in, through the love and power of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Messiah, and the intention of God to make all things well.

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What causes bitterness? Here are some words that bubbled up this morning: disappointment, betrayal, endless battles, anger, unforgiveness, false hope, lies, abandonment, and grace withheld. Unfortunately, I know these words too well, as victim and as perpetrator.

Colossians 3:21
Fathers [and mothers] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

I am known for big: big ideas, big mouth, big mistakes, big emotions. When I express myself, it’s with a passion. When I grieve and cry, it floods the room. When I slip and fall, I carry lots of stuff (and people) with me. It’s part of who I started out to be and who I have become.

As a child, that bigness came out of wanting to be seen. My aging father was kind to me, and yet, as a caregiver to a toddler, he rendered me invisible and I lived long hours alone in a playpen. He drank heavily during the day and it took a lot to get his attention.

As a young adult, I found some respite in the theater. Everything in that world was bigger and deeper than everyday life; I could safely feel and express lots of different feelings in an array of contrived and controlled moments. I could be seen without harm.

On the mother side, I was expected to perform as well, but perfectly: excellent grades (like my brother), success in all ventures, and work that was respected and secure. When my brother went on with life (college, work, etc.), I continued to feel bound to my mother who was doing her best to provide for us on her own. I wanted escape and felt guilty for it. Resentment grew steadily.

It takes a lot of personal strength to fight the onslaught of bitterness. This is an unexpected benefit from a relationship with the Holy Spirit, where individual courage is married to the supernatural, where holy forgiveness can wash away the bloody colors of bitter ordeals. But it’s a process.

One would think that living through some of this as a child I would be better prepared to give grace to my own children. But old habits die hard and I see now where I put many of the same pressures on them that were put on me. Not in all cases, of course. I gave love and attention and safety. I gave hope and forgiveness. But I also poured on expectations. I have seen the seeds germinate as my children come into their own. They don’t want to disappoint and yet, they feel it all the same. Sustained disappointment leads to bitterness. This I know. Is there still time?

And so I pray, today, to consciously release them and myself from these chains: to live loved.

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Isn’t the root issue always the most important? So often, we judge people and circumstances by first impressions or appearances without looking for the heart. But looking inside can be treacherous.

Romans 11:16
If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

In the plant world, roots have very particular responsibilities. They absorb water and inorganic nutrients and they anchor the plant to the ground. They also control how quickly a plant will grow and store nutrients for later use. (Wikipedia for more on roots)

This description is not much different than the work of the human spirit who ultimately directs our growth and maturation into adults. A child whose spirit is broken will not thrive. A wounded soul is incapable of experiencing the fullness of love or hope: essentials to happiness. A slumbering spirit will no longer absorb truth.

Some years ago I was active in the Elijah House ministry. This is where I first heard about the negative power of “bitter root judgments” [See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Romans 12:15]. It is so important to search out and prayerfully confront deep root problems. As long as these issues from a person’s past are boxed up and unattended, they will continue to impair and cloud daily life (sometimes without our conscious knowledge). Elijah House was instrumental in revealing some of these obstacles in my own life and how to become aware of their negative influence. Some of those roots had to be pulled out altogether and cast away. Some were cleaned and lovingly returned to the soil of my heart by the Holy Spirit: inner healing.

When a personal spirit is united with the Holy Spirit, the process toward wholeness [holiness] begins. It is just another way of explaining “sanctification.”

Sanctification works both directions, from the outside in and from inside out. Yes, we must choose to change our behaviors and extend ourselves outside the comfort zone: loving the unlovely, helping those less fortunate than we are, investing our “talents” in those people and areas that can use them. But we must also change from within, exposing our hearts and spirits to the Light of God’s Holy Spirit. And as our roots are healed, the outside choices become much easier.

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