“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.” – Simone Weil
Simone Weil, 20th century philosopher and writer, penned these words in the midst of a global war, yet poignant and true they remain today. In our globalizing, urbanizing world, roots to a place can be seen as unwanted tethers. Still, without ties to a community that preserves the “treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future,” in what are we rooted?
What does this mean, especially, for those who choose to leave their place of roots?
In Scripture, the people of Israel paint an image for addressing these very questions. Banished from the place they knew as home, they found themselves in exile in Babylon for some 70 years.
Unsettled and far-off, they were strangers and aliens living in temporary quarters. They could have easily stayed put in their tents, seeing it as an in-between time and place not worth their investment, but the Lord instructed them otherwise. He urged the Israelites to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce,” and ultimately, to “seek the welfare of the city where [the Lord] has sent you” (Jeremiah 29:5,7).
What might this garden-planting and house-building look like for the transient people of the 21st century?
Perhaps it is celebrating the culture of the new place in which you find yourself. Try hot chicken when you move to Nashville. Watch the rowers gracefully glide past you on the Thames. Bang pots and pans at a Zambian bride’s kitchen party. Practice radical hospitality: Host neighbors for a meal, welcome new friends into your home and pray for your city. You may be surprised at what the Lord can and will do.
Though there is merit to building fresh relationships in a new place, Weil’s quote also alludes to an inherent value in being rooted in relationships that remain constant throughout one’s life. Take stock of your relationships. Do you have people in your life–living near or far–who know you deeply and have seen you through seasons of your life? These people will serve as anchors for your life and you for theirs.
Invest in these men and women in this non-geographical community, preserving the “treasures of the past” and looking ahead to encourage each other as you move into the future. In an era of technology and travel, it’s easier than ever before to maintain and further develop lasting, meaningful relationships across borders.
Finally, root yourself in the Gospel. Find rest in the truth that we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” a family that extends further than our travels and through generations ancient and yet to come (Ephesians 2:19).
The Church welcomes you into community around the world, and through a shared hope in Christ, certainly clings to “particular expectations for the future” when Christ returns.
Perhaps, in these personal and collective ways, we can redeem a sense of the rootedness Weil describes: one new relationship, lasting connection and encounter with the family of Christ at a time.