In the last few weeks I found myself jammed onto the Jubilee Line travelling home after a very long day at work. This is not an unusual occurrence, and I usually spend my commute reading; the only redeeming feature of rush hour travel. On this particular evening I was reading another classic article about millennials and adulthood, and how complex grown-up life can be. I usually find things like this deeply reassuring, because it suggests that someone, somewhere, might also be asking the same life questions I am. But on this occasion, I found the usual tone a little grating because nestled in all this writing was some sentence about how there are some super-sorted people being “real adults” and putting down roots.
On reading these words, I found myself questioning why this idea felt so jarring, what it was that had me wanting to flounce off the tube several stops too soon. I realised it is this: somehow we have grown accustomed to the idea that roots are synonymous with having settled down, and have therefore become associated with life partners, mortgages, and probably a home in the suburbs. As I began to think about this in light of my friends, and my community, I realised that I disagree with this idea wholeheartedly. I may be an urban dweller, but I know that roots are what determine growth, and I believe that with people, roots are the foundations by which we flourish.
I reject the idea that flourishing is the sole privilege of those on the housing market.
I have been living in London for nearly six years and although I love this sprawling, beautiful city, it is not without challenges. In the various worlds in which I live I have witnessed heartache and grief, poverty and materialism, racism and abuse. I have seen these things played out in the lives of those that I love, and I often find myself asking what the answer is – where on earth can we find our hope?
I believe that this idea that stability and security is only available when you have ticked off certain life stages is killing our ability to live hopefully.
You see, I believe that roots are our resistance. They are our means of digging into the lives we have been given, and believing that good things can grow. Roots burrow into hard, dark ground, and lend us foundations, bring us nourishment and solidity when life becomes completely upside down. I cannot subscribe to a life view which says that this is only for a lucky few, because I believe that in these days there are more than simply a handful of us in need of hope.
So, what then does it look life to live a rooted life? I am not naive enough to think that roots are not connected with our physical situations, with where we live and what we do…but if we believe this is solely where our foundations are made then what will we do when these things are uprooted? I suspect that we need other roots to ground us, and I suspect that these roots are primarily about relationships.
In my life I am lucky enough to find myself situated in a home that feels pretty well rooted. I moved a few months ago to prioritise some of my key friendships, and I, along with some others are making neighbouring a big deal; we eat, pray and share life with one another. It’s very ordinary. Sometimes it looks like no-make up Saturdays, and other times it looks like three course meals. Sometimes it’s borrowing books, and making use of the spare keys, other times it is visiting in hospital. In these days these simple rooted things are changing my life.
But really, the realest roots I have are ones of faith. In all honesty, they started pretty small; a few questions and some conversations. Over the years these roots have grown with the help of wise counsellors, good practices, and the Holy Spirit. Several years ago now I decided that following Jesus was the only course to real life and in the seasons since I have found this to be the truest thing I know. This one root, the kindness and strength of God, has been my anchor. So when we talk about rootedness being the result of being “super-sorted” well I despair a little, because that’s not my story, and I don’t think it’s the story of many of God’s people.
To think that we can only experience the peace of rootedness if our lives are sorted seems a grave misunderstanding of how we live and thrive. From what I have seen, and what I know, the best roots do not rely on our accomplishments, but rather our availability and openness to matters of faith. This sounds a lot like hope to me.
It is true that I have made choices and taken decisions to prioritise the rooted relationships in my life, and there have also been plenty of moments when I have messed this up. But I am choosing to believe that we can cultivate hope by burrowing deep into the real things of life, our roots a resistance against transience and apathy towards one another and towards God. I am choosing to believe that this where and how we grow. I am choosing to believe that this is where and how we will see our communities and our cities flourish.