I have learned the hard way what to do and what not to do. Living in zone 9 means you make more mistakes than most about what will grow and what won’t. It never dawned on me that there was such a thing as too warm a climate until the first time I planted tulip bulbs. All those lovely spring flowers will never make it here without a lot of extra work, like digging them up and putting them in the freezer for awhile, and even then you can’t count on it.
We lived in South Carolina for three years and I could actually grow irises. The first time I ordered them, I was stunned when they arrived—a bare hunk of root in a plastic bag. Surely it was dead by now, I thought. That was how I learned about rhizomes.
Rhizomes are not ordinary roots, long and hairlike, growing out of the bottom of a stem. They aren’t bulbs either. They are long pieces of thick rootstock, sometimes called underground stems, which run horizontally under the plant, sending out numerous roots and even leaf buds from its upper surface. That horizontal orientation also aids in propagation, as the roots spread underground and form more rhizomes from which more plants grow the next season.
Now think about that as you read this passage: Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving, Colossians 2:6-7. That word “rooted” is the Greek word rhizoomai. I am not a Greek scholar but it doesn’t take one to see the connection between that word and “rhizome.” I am told that its figurative meaning is “to become stable.”
It isn’t just that we are rooted downward in the faith with tiny hairlike roots. Our faith is based in something that is strong, that can even withstand the rigors of being out of its milieu for awhile (like rootstock shipped in a plastic bag), that spreads out to others on a regular basis, and eventually grows into a whole support system. Try to pull up an ordinary plant and you can usually do so without too much trouble. Try to pull up a rhizome-based plant and you have to work at it awhile, in fact you may uproot half your yard trying to do so and still never get it all.
That sort of root takes awhile to develop. It doesn’t happen overnight or without effort, and it won’t happen that way with you either. You must work at it, but once you have, you will be far stronger than you ever imagined.
You have to be connected to your brethren too, you can’t just “be a Christian,” one completely divorced from the Lord’s family, and think you will ever have that same sort of strength. Rhizomes reach out, and so must we. The only other choice is a fragile little root system that will die if it is uprooted for very long at all.
Build up…your most holy faith, Jude says, v 20, but build it down as well, rooting yourself with a strong rootstock that will not waver, despite the trials of life and the persecutions of the enemy. Develop a rhizome and, in the words of Peter who told us how to supplement our faith, “you shall never fall” (2 Pet 1:5-10).
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…Colossians 1:21-23.