Pot or Plot: In Which Are You Planted?

Scripture is replete with metaphors, painting concrete pictures of abstract ideas. Take, for example, the many verses that speak of being planted.

The person who walks in God’s ways is like a tree planted (Psalm 1:3)

They will be the shoot I, God, have planted (Isaiah 60:21)

God had planted you like a choice vine… (Jeremiah 2:21)

Those who trust in the Lord will be like a tree planted (Jeremiah 17:8)

…you being rooted [same idea as planted] …in love (Ephesians 3:17)

Each of these metaphors likens people (or a person) to some sort of tree. In the same way a tree is planted in something, each person is planted in something, specifically a set of beliefs (ideas, values, truths) out of which that person grows and receives nourishment. Rest assured, the something into which a tree is planted affects the growth or lack thereof.

This morning, I found myself meditating on these planted metaphors. It occurred to me that when planting, you have two something options, I.e. the something into which to plant a tree. You can plant a tree in a pot (some sort of container) or a plot (the ground.) The Scriptural metaphors describe God planting in plots. Thus, considering the aforementioned options, plots represent trust in God (what He says, believes, values, etc.) and pots would represent placing trust in other things (what the world says will bring success, what a friend says about you, what magazines say makes a person beautiful or valuable, etc.).

Consider the physical realities of planting a tree in a pot versus planting a tree in a plot.

Pots confine—limiting growth, preventing the deep and wide spread of stabilizing roots. Pots themselves deteriorate and break, easily overturned by wind or carried away by flood waters. Potted plants require more effort to maintain, e.g. its only source of water is someone walking over to water it.

Plots of ground do not deteriorate, decompose, and break apart like man-made pot. Plots offer ample space for growth, where a tree’s roots can stretch deep and wide, bringing stabilization during severe winds and rains and reaching nourishment during times of drought. In other words, trees planted in the ground grow bigger and grow freely and naturally, even in adverse conditions.

Are you putting your hope and trust in lesser gods? Have you determined your worth and value based something other what God believes? Have you settled for being planted in a pot when God wants to plant you in a plot?

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes. But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Be Careful with That Box!

In 2015 our eldest married; two years later our youngest followed suit. Since then, between the two couples, there have been six moves. A lot could be said about all those moves, but one thing is for sure…that’s a lot of boxes! 

 Moving is a fascinating endeavor. In a matter of hours, the entire contents of one’s home are compartmentalized and packaged into boxes. You wrap. You tape. You label. The goal: transport everything of value as efficiently, as neatly, as quickly as possible without breaking anything. And regardless of who carries and loads the boxes, with every step and every stack, the courier must be careful with that box! 

With move number seven about to transpire (no, that is not a joke), I have been thinking a lot about boxes. Specifically, how we try to put God in a box. Boxes are great for moving, but God does not do boxes. He has a way of oozing out the seams, popping open the top, and exploding the entire box from the inside. Funny thing, religion can be boxed. But relationship cannot. And we keep trying to make God about boxed religion when He is offering us an un-packable relationship. 

Religion has rules—the clearer-cut, the better. With religion, you can apply if-then statements. (You know, IF your child does drug THEN apply “tough love” and cut them loose.) Religion colors with two Crayolas: the black one and the white one. It prefers linear shapes with nice, neat straight edges, like boxes. Messes should be quickly cleaned; problems immediately resolved. Yup. Religion will fit (and stay) in your box.

Relationships have rules but the rules of covenant not contract. If-then statements must bow to the uniqueness of individuals and circumstances. Relationship uses all the crayons from Crayola’s box, even those foggy shades of gray. The neat angular lines of squares and rectangles, give way to circles, loops, and swirly things. Messes are par for the course, and problems take time to unravel, like a ball of tangled yarn. Sure, you could just cut out the knots, but that would sever relationship. See? God can’t—He won’t—fit in your box. 

Let’s be honest. We like the predictable. We like control. We like to have the answers, know the if-then equations to implement. We like boxes containing all the parts, with instructions, that enable us to maintain our independence. 

(Oh golly, there we go again. Back to the Garden. Where it all started. Where we asserted, we demanded, our independence, eating the fruit and sending everything into chaos, trading the freedom of relationship for the rigid box of religion.) 

But instead of a neatly packaged box of religion, we have an unpredictable God that cannot be controlled. A God who sometimes says “Stay,” and other times says “Go.” And to find out which one is the “way” this time requires a relationship of utter trust and dependence. 

 If we insist on putting God in a box, be careful with that box. Sooner or later, that box is gonna explode!