Roots & Wings


    We human beings need both roots and wings to function fully. Symbolically, it’s as though the roots are the human, grounded part of our Earth walk and the wings are the divine, the part that flies among the stars. Both of these parts make up the whole being and both are essential to our experience on Earth.

    Think about it: Those of us who try to stay safely rooted in the ground, refusing to fly, are missing the divine component that gives inspiration to the everyday humanness of life. Those of us who attempt to deny our human side, preferring to spend every minute in the ethers, are missing the human interaction that is so instrumental to our lessons here. We cannot be who and what we are without both of these, the integration of the two being the perfect balance for this experiment that is our earthly life.

    Years ago, a friend who was still very wounded by his childhood experience came to me in search of understanding about a specific passage from the Bible. He wanted to understand something that was hurtful to him, because it appeared to sanction some of what had been done to him as a child – his parents had beaten him.

    He said, "Tell me what ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ might mean in this new spiritual way of looking at things." Not knowing the answer to his question and unsure of where to begin my search, I did what I often do: I went inside and asked for divine inspiration so that I could help this man. When the inspiration came, I was led to pick up the American Heritage dictionary.

    The word "rod" means (among other things) a measuring stick, a linear measure, lineage. The dictionary specifically states the biblical definition of "rod" as, "A line of family descent; a branch of a tribe." The word "measure" is all about making a determination based on comparison between two guideposts, which could be interpreted as being taught values and ethics, right and wrong. "Spoil" is more obvious in meaning: "To impair the value or quality of. To damage irreparably; ruin. To impair the completeness, perfection, or unity of."

    What this means to me is that if we don’t give our children something to measure themselves by, guidance or lineage, roots and a connection, something to help them know who they are and where they come from, it will impair the completeness, perfection and/or unity of the children. It means that having a sense of belonging is necessary so that we don’t ruin them, by leaving them adrift and irreparably damaged. Like fruit on a vine, without nourished roots, the child will literally spoil.

    Now the skeptic might say, "That doesn’t prove anything. Just because a rod is a unit of measure, it doesn’t mean that’s what the Bible is saying." No, it doesn’t prove anything. But I ask you, does it make more sense to you that the Bible is telling people they should beat their children? And how many people, do you suppose, who have used this verse to sanction violent behavior have bothered to look up the word "rod" to find some other interpretation (any other interpretation) to guide them? And don’t you imagine that people who beat their children are in serious need of roots and wings, grounding and inspiration, in their own lives? So, nothing proven, you decide which definition works best for you.

    This brings me to a second point, one that I am wont to make, which is the "you decide" part. When you come to one of those moments in your life when you don’t immediately know the answer, maybe you don’t have to do what other people tell you to do. Maybe you don’t have to accept someone else’s interpretation. Perhaps, instead, you can go inside and ask yourself what love would do in this situation. What might the Creator do in raising healthy children? What would Jesus or Buddha or Mother Teresa do? What would your mother have done, in a moment of despair, if she had been in touch with her divinity? How might your father have treated you, with just a little more inspiration in his life?

    What do you want to do? You decide. Let your Higher Power help. Let your wings make the walk lighter and let your roots give you strength.

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    Kimberly Lilith Phelps
    Lily Phelps welcomes dialogue by e-mail at [email protected]. The primary thrust of Lily's counseling work with individuals and groups centers on healing inner conflict as a method of learning and experiencing greater Self Love. She is a ministerial guide at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community in South Minneapolis. Visit Copyright © 2006 Lily Phelps. All rights reserved


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