Roots and Wings

“As you are shifting you will begin to realize you are not the same person you used to be. The things you used to tolerate have now become intolerable. Where you once remained quiet you are now speaking your truth. Where you once battled and argued you are now choosing to remain silent. You are beginning to understand the value of your voice and there are some situations that no longer deserve your time energy and focus.” — 
I typed the keywords "roots, wings" into the search bar. I shouldn't have been surprised that the graphic stock website did not return any results. No one talks about roots and wings in the same breath. They talk about them separately though. 

People will often use wings as a metaphor for new things: a new job, a new season of life, a new relationship. Or they use it in a way that describes throwing off all restraints and inhibitions to run after your passion or dream; to soar into one's calling or destiny. It's a very freeing and exhilarating word. I understand its appeal, and love everything it embodies.

But I also love the word "roots". They are often talked about in a solid, foundational way; as a tree that exemplifies it well—whilst the storms and tempests may come, the roots that are dug deep into the earth hold the tree fast and strong. It denotes stability and depth, that a person who is rooted in something of value will never fall. I love and believe in the concept that those who invest the time and energy into sending roots down into wisdom will be secure through all life may throw at them.

So I find it strange that whenever the two words meet, it will oft be said that "you cannot have both roots and wings". Literally speaking, I get it. I do know that something rooted to the ground physically cannot fly (kites are close, but no cigar). However I have noticed that opposites tend to attract, and in my experience, I’ve found that roots and wings are closer to one another than they first seem.

I was raised in a conservative Christian home. Whilst my family did not attend church during my childhood, I spent a lot of time around conservative Christians in homeschool groups, and was taught a lot of conservative values and principles. Whilst much of what I learned about fringe issues from my own reading or from the influence of friends at the time erred on the side of legalism—especially in the quarters of things like courtship, homemaking, and acceptable ladylike hobbies—my faith found some deep roots in the Word of God, solid character values, and reverent holy awe for who God is. I learned to value community and the fellowship of the body in cultivating relationships, and sharpening one another with the truth; either by loving correction or in the heat of a good-natured doctrinal debate. These are all roots I deeply love and cherish about my formative years. 

In my later teens and in more recent years, I embraced more fully the pentecostal theology passed down to me by my Mum and Grandma, both beautiful, strong women of God who have personally seen His hand move in powerful ways. I was baptized in water, and later baptized in the Holy Spirit which was accompanied by the ability to speak in tongues. I did intensive study of the doctrine of healing, and joined a Bible study group that taught and encouraged prophecy. I’ve been studying via correspondence for the last three years through Andrew Wommack’s Charis Bible college and learning more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and after attending a pentacostal church for several years, found freedom in worship to praise God through raising my hands. I’ve seen spiritual manifestations and miracles with my own eyes, and knowing there is so much more to this world and the incredible goodness of God we serve than just man’s tradition makes my heart sing. Understanding how much more I can hope for in this life gives me wings that I want to fly away on. 

“Yeah, so?” You may say. “You can have roots and wings. What’s the problem?” Well, there is a slight catch. Because in case you haven’t noticed, there is quite a big gap between the conservative/reformed camp, and the pentacostal/charismatic camp and I happen to have a foot in both of them. I am the result of a curious hybrid that neither fits, nor doesn’t fit in either camp. And it gets complicated. 

Because I can debate Calvinism with the best of them, and I love the wealth of Biblical knowledge often in common that can spark discussion at any point. I can also find plenty of pentacostal issues to rag on. Most of my family values are conservative, I love me some old authors (A.W. Tozer), and I love me some old hymns (How Deep the Father’s Love). I love potluck dinners, and uncomplicated fellowship. I love the reverent faith and worship that is without fanfare or embellishment. These are just some of the many things I miss from the pentacostal realm. Yet if I bring up tongues, healing, gifts of the Spirit, Joyce Meyer or contemporary Christian music, suddenly things get a little awkward. The glances are thrown around, and the gap inexplicably widens between both camps. I’m reminded I don’t fit in there.

Likewise, when it comes to the other side, I love the freedom to praise in tongues, sing, even dance in worship. I love being able to dream and hope for the impossible and the supernatural with fellow believers, and join in daring prayers that take confident authority against the devil. I love the sharpening of having the boxes I try to keep God in broken, and having my eyes opened to new ways of seeing and receiving from a God who loves to speak to each of His children personally and uniquely. Yet if point out the shallow lyrics, bring up Scriptures about men and women’s roles, mention that the church building or institution has too much focus, or gaining numbers in any given ministry is not the goal, if I speak out about how we’ve drifted from valuing family or the dangers of over-structuralization… I fear the looks and judgment I would receive if I did.

My greatest weakness is my desire not to cause controversy or offense. My greatest love, is my desire for truth. However frequently—and unfortunately—fear trumps truth. So instead of owning these two sides of me as a whole, I censor who I am and tailor my beliefs for whatever crowd I find myself in. Conservative baptist crowd? Don’t raise your hand during question time in church, banter over Calvinism and wear a skirt. Pentacostal crowd? Say nothing about the music’s volume, congratulate the kids on what they did at youth group and feign excitement for the next event. I've built false foundations in relationships because they were based on only part of me. I wanted to be taken seriously by conservatives and not laughed at for my pentacostal beliefs, so I proved myself a worthy contestant in debates by my knowledge of Scripture. I wanted to be taken seriously by pentacostals and not thought a stiff so I conformed my outward actions to the image expected of me as a worship leader. 

You know the problem with only being true to people’s expectations of you?

It’s not really true. And truth is what sets you free (John 8:32).
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortified us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” — Tim Keller
It’s been a slow dawn, but I’m beginning to realize I cannot live alternatively between both halves of myself anymore. It’s dishonest, and not true to who God created me to be. I’ve mourned plenty that I had to be a square peg in a world of round holes, and have wished fervently that I could permanently dwell in one or the other camp.

But I’m not. I never will be. This is how God created me, and these are the truths He has instilled in my heart. I don’t have to make excuses for them.

Who I am is not a fight.

I don’t have to fight to prove myself to conservatives or pentacostals. 

I don’t have to defend the person I am or answer to people who choose not to understand. 

It’s okay—healthy even—to have both roots and wings. 

If I had only roots, I would never have had the inspiration or revelation to see beyond, but instead been consumed with traditionalism. 

If I had only wings, I would fly beyond the reaches of reality and lose sight of foundational truths in an emotional quest. 

And the truth is what matters most.

Jesus said many things that were the truth that offended and divided people. As I read His answer, I recognize my own fear.
His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” — Matthew 15:12-13
Whilst my flesh quails at the thought of having things that are comfortable, predictable or safe in my life uprooted, the fact is deep down, I have no desire for anything to take up room in my life if it hasn’t been planted there by the Lord. After all, don't only the things God plants bear fruit? Speaking the truth of who I am will cause some things and some people to be uprooted out of my life. That frightens me, but I am learning to have the courage not to divide myself anymore, for “if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). 

I want my love to be without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9). I want to live unashamed of the Gospel, and unafraid of public opinion—regardless which public. I cannot love without being honest, and my love is not true if I am not being true to myself. 

How can I expect honest love from others if I am not willing to first be honest myself? How can I expect true vulnerability from someone else if I am too busy censoring my own heart? 

I am not complete. I am still learning and still eager to discover further truth God will enlighten me to in His Word, but I want to go from here with the acknowledgement of where I’ve come from. No more hiding. No more disguising or doctoring who I am to suit people I will never satisfy. 

God is satisfied with me. That is enough.

In Him, learning to stand (Gal. 5:1). Learning to fly (Is. 40:31). Learning to love (1 Cor. 16:14). 

So here’s to embracing my roots as I spread my wings. It's not easy, I will fail, but I'm choosing courage. This is who I am. Sinking my roots deep into the richness of His living Word as I soar into the shadow of His wings. 
“we can only love each other / when we're brave enough to be known / so don't be scared now / to confess what you're afraid we won't understand.” — Jason Gray

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