Columnist Mary Morrell uses the wisteria plant in reflecting on what it means to have faith. Photo from unsplash.com
Columnist Mary Morrell uses the wisteria plant in reflecting on what it means to have faith. Photo from unsplash.com
Something happened today at a funeral that reminded me of a question God posed to me years ago, and it has to do with wisteria.

For more than 50 years, our house has been graced with an aged, gnarled wisteria vine growing along a fence on the side of our property. Wisterias are vigorous vines which grow large, extraordinarily beautiful clusters of purple, blue, pink or white flowers that hang like grapes off the vine.

Wisteria, with its deep and wide root system, is known for its hardiness and longevity, but I was convinced our particular plant could have withstood the 10 plagues of Moses and the biblical flood.

In my time, it has been repeatedly trampled by dozens of little feet, run over with the lawn mower, suffocated by a dumpster when we remodeled our house and been struck by lightning, going up in a flash fire and leaving just a smoldering piece of vine sticking out of the ground.

I was upset, of course, believing that was the end of my beloved wisteria, but under the cold October ground that little vine was whispering, “Oh, ye of little faith.” By spring, its wispy green leaves were pushing through the earth, around its petrified former self and creeping up the nearby fence and light pole.

Its growth upward has taken it over, around and through a variety of obstacles, but none were sufficient to halt its progress. With every walk around my house, I would notice some new green here, another inch there, and I would be in awe of its strength and persistence.

One day, as I marveled at its tenacity, God asked me again a question I have been asked before: “What is your root?” I sighed, wondering if God ever gets tired of holding our feet to the fire when we need to learn something.

Certainly, wisteria has a physical root that grows deep and wide, securely entrenched in the earth from which it can absorb all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. On another level, this is a plant that seems to know its ‘self,’ determined to come back again and again despite the obstacles because it has one goal – to give life to its essence.

Humans are not always so single-minded. Our progress is often interrupted or impeded or brought to a grinding halt by wounds, by doubt or by fear. It is the nature of humanity to stumble over our human limitations and, sometimes, allow them to curtail our growth.

When we are fortunate enough to be reminded by our resolute God that our root is divine, not simply human, then obstacles become challenges on our journey of becoming: challenges that will take us over, around and through, just like the wisteria.

Today I was reminded when I unexpectedly saw a friend – a deacon I haven’t seen in several years because he has been incapacitated by pain and facing myriad, serious health issues that could have undone the strongest of us.

Yet today, there he was, serving as deacon at the funeral of a mutual friend, walking down the aisle with a cane to accompany the casket, standing at the altar to assist the priest, reading the Gospel through heartfelt tears, and preaching a homily that will stay with me always.

Today I saw a friend, so often near death, who came back to life, persisting through prayer, faith and divine tenacity.

Today I was reminded what it means to be rooted in God, and I cried in gratitude.

Mary Clifford Morrell is the author of “Things My Father Taught Me About Love” and “Let Go and Live: Reclaiming your life by releasing your emotional clutter.”