Rooted and grounded in love

There is such wisdom in the trees, and they are particularly vibrant teachers as they stand steadfast in the midst of change. (Tracy Kemme)

What's love got to do with it? Everything.

In the midst of a vitriolic and divisive political season, we might forget. But love is the beating heart of the Christian life. God's been reminding me lately, calling me back to this central truth of our faith, in ways gentle and sometimes overt. Something in me pricks at me, "Of course it's all about love! It should be so obvious, Tracy! It should be so second-nature!" Alas, I'm human, and I can always use the reminder. Maybe you can, too.

A lovely beckoning back to love came in last Thursday's epistle for the day, a scripture from Ephesians that Andrea and I chose for our first vows Mass last summer. As I sat on a pillow in our prayer room, soaking in the words again, warmth and peace flooded me. I could reflect on them every day of my life and still draw new inspiration. The passage goes like this:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Creator, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that God would grant you . . . to be strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Rooted and grounded in love.

The phrase reverberates through my prayer and comes alive in this season of autumn. There is such wisdom in the trees, and they are particularly vibrant teachers as they stand steadfast in the midst of change. I have a favorite tree in the cemetery near my house with massive roots formed into a nook that serves as a perfect little seat. When life is chaotic, I go to my tree, nestle in, press my back into the strong trunk, and incline my head to look all the way up into the branches. I grasp the "armrest" roots at either side, and I breathe.

The tree where I go to get grounded. (Tracy Kemme)

Tree roots are amazing. They anchor the tree firmly into the soil. They absorb water, and they draw nutrients in that the tree needs for growth, development, and even repair. Trees themselves are flexible; they can sway in the wind, branches dancing freely. They surrender to the seasons, allowing God's natural processes to paint them with color, and then cast off their leaves, only to be filled with life again when spring comes. Through all of it, a tree's roots keep it grounded and alive.

What a powerful thing to be rooted and grounded in Love. Imagine — I am a tree, and Love is the expanse of soil, water, and nutrients that my roots cling to. Love courses through me, giving me all I need for growth, healing, and vitality. Love is what sustains me, and Love is the stuff of the fruit I produce. Love is the constant that allows me to weather every season of my life. I am transformed and re-created over and over again with each passing year, and in all of it, I know whose I am.

In a world wrought with hatred and violence, sometimes I can forget my roots. They're there; I can't detach from them. But I can get carried away with the swirling storms of life and speak or act in ways that disregard my roots. How different we, and our society, could be if we embrace the wonder of being rooted and grounded in Love.

St. Therese of Lisieux, whose feast day we celebrated earlier this month, once wrote, "My vocation is love!" In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul asserts that we can be and do many things — preachers, prophets, steadfast in faith, dedicated to serving the poor — but if we do not have love, we are nothing. When it came right down to it, Jesus said that the essential commandment is to love God and love one another.

Another reminder arrived to me last week in the form of a manila envelope postmarked all the way from Florida. My friend Sam had asked for my address recently, but I'd forgotten. And then, here I come through our kitchen door after a long day of ministry, bags slung over my arms and a tired sigh on my lips, and I find a package — for me — on our kitchen counter. The tired sigh melted into a soft smile. My bags fell to the floor, and I ripped back the flap of Sam's providentially timed package.

The reminder from my friend Sam in Florida. (Tracy Kemme)

What emerged was a beautiful print bearing this quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."

My smile stretched wider, and the sigh I expelled now was one of gratitude. I paused to hold the touching image in my heart: A loving God, bent over a desk to the soft light of a lamp, smiling tenderly and eagerly penning a love letter to all of Creation. And each of us is given the gift of being God's pencil, a conduit to bring that love letter to life.

Sometimes everything seems so complicated, but God is Love, and Love is why we're here. We are rooted and grounded in Love. Each time you see a tree, remember. We are a pencil in God's hand, writing a love letter to the world. Each time you see a pencil, remember. Love sustains us, and Love is our vocation.

What's love got to do with it? Everything.

[Tracy Kemme is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. Author of the blog Diary of a Sister-in-Training, Tracy is excited about the future of religious life! She currently ministers at the Catholic Social Action Office in Cincinnati and as the Latino Ministry Coordinator at a local parish.]