As a young girl, I had an affinity for little bean plants. I loved planting them and watching them grow, so I grew many of them. Some in water-soaked cotton balls, some in the bottom half of 2-litre bottles dissected for that cause, and some beneath the soil in my – well, my parents’ – backyard. I watered each one of them dutifully. After a while, my faithfulness would waver, and they would dry out and die.
But I had a special bean plant. Let’s call her Beanie. I planted Beanie in a little raised bed at the back entrance of my house. I was ten or eleven then, a time when sprouting bean plants was interesting and fun.
Dutiful to Beanie than to my previous bean plants, I weeded Beanie and gawked over her daily like an obsessed plant mom. Soon, her little sprout popped up from beneath the surface, and she grew until her leaves opened up to the sunshine. Even today, I remember how Beanie’s light green leaves glowed in stark contrast to the dirty mud.
It was lovely to watch Beanie grow at first. As the scatterbrained child I was, I lost interest in her (although I would like to think I simply “forgot” to water her). So, like all my other bean plants, she withered and died.
Rooted in Droughty, Alien Soil
Many plants have withered and died like my little Beanie simply because they couldn’t grow without water. No plant anywhere in this world can hope to grow unless it is faithfully watered. The only exceptions are drought-resistant trees like an Acacia tree with deep tap roots or a Baobab with a trunk filled with water.
There is something special about the Acacia and the Baobab. Drought or lack of water source doesn’t limit them. They have been known to grow in the harshest and driest of all climates and stood the test of time. The Baobab tree is known to live for more than 2,000 years!
How do they do this?
Acacia and Baobab – King Trees of the Desert
The Acacia tree has long roots that tap water from deep within the ground. No matter how dry and droughty the surface may be, there is always water underground.
Baobabs, on the other hand, diligently store up water in their spongy trunks to save up for times of drought. Each Baobab can store nearly 100,000 litres of water in its trunk! In fact, nearly 76% of a Baobab is pure water.
Humans are like Trees
Humans are like trees (Isa. 53:2; Ps. 1:3; Mark 8:24). Some are Acacias, some are Baobabs, and some are little bean plants. A few are planted in their native, fertile soil, and others in alien, droughty soil.
Some are like Acacias with long tap roots, seeking to find true meaning in life and water from the Source that can never run out. Others are content with superficial roots that tap out just enough water to quench their immediate thirst.
Some, like Baobabs, have learnt to rely on the Source of living water and His Word that they have stored deep within them, feeding on it and being kept alive by it when soul-drought comes. Others seek to find temporary nourishment from without.
Which are you?
Surviving in Droughty, Alien Soil
To be planted in droughty soil can feel like a terrible thing. Droughty soil means different things to different people. For us TCKs, it might be having to thrive in a culture foreign or hostile to us. For a non-TCK, it might be something completely different.
In any case, when soul-drought comes, our knee-jerk reaction is to look for nourishment in friendship and community – our “water sources” – to keep us from drying out. But when this proves insufficient, two choices face us: we can either wither and die to our dreams, hope, faith, and ambitions, or we can be like an Acacia or a Baobab and thrive.
I would want to be an Acacia or a Baobab, and so would you, I’d like to believe. But to be an Acacia or a Baobab is no easy feat, for they require two things:
- Roots that run deep.
- A water source and storage from within.
How Deep do Your Roots Run?
Paul was honest when he said to the believers in Corinth, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11 ESV). Paul was speaking of the church’s one foundation, but I’d like for you to see it in this light: on what foundations are your roots held, dear TCK?
To lay our roots – our foundations – on any other ideology or belief, save in the risen Lord, is to die in times of drought. For upon closer inspection of almost any ideology or alternative fed to us by the world, that soil is only 2 metres deep – not deep enough to grow an Acacia or a Baobab!
Where is Your Water Source Found – Within or Without?
Do you seek the water (the joy, peace, and nourishment) that your soul desires in the trashcan of the world? Like thin rope strands, are ideologies and “isms” (such as liberalism) thrown at you like beautiful water bottles filled with sewage? Don’t fall for it! The water of this world – its vain pleasures, its sinful allurements – is putrid and vile! Don’t drink it! That water is fleeting; it does not last. As soon as the rays of trials and hardship beat down, it evaporates and we wither away.
Our water should come from the Source Himself. The One who promises that whoever drinks of the water that He will give to them will never be thirsty again, because His water will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4: 14).
Will you be like little Beanie and wither away because your water source came from without? Or will you be like the woman at the well, a strong Acacia, who cried out to the source of true water? “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:15 ESV).
The story of Beanie is a sad one. But there are many stories of great Acacia and Baobabs – the king trees of the desert – who have learnt the trade of thriving, and not merely surviving, in times of drought.
We too can be like an Acacia and Baobab and grow constantly in whatever droughty soil we have been planted and in whatever season of life we are in. Like the woman at the well, we can learn that to be rooted in times of drought is to have our hope in Christ and in Him alone. He is the only source of living water, which He promises to store up deep in our souls, away from the scorching sun of doubt, discouragement, and fear.
‘Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 5-8 ESV, emphasis added