The book pens a journey with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a framework for pondering life lessons, or songs, of grace-filled "yes" to God.

This blog continues to explore the implications of these songs in daily life. Here you will find ten additional reflections on each of Mary's "songs." May they continue to encourage your heart. ~Carla

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Root of Integrity

When I am in a season of seeking to remember and reclaim why I am alive, I reach for the novels of Elizabeth Goudge.  Finding myself once more in that season, I am re-reading my old friends.  The Scent of Water is among my top three of her stories.

Goudge, herself a devout Christian who wrote before there was a huge genre called “Christian fiction,” writes a profoundly truthful story of learning to love others in humble, hidden ways--and of discovering the meaning of one’s life along the way.

I find myself with favorite quotes the leave me pondering images and treasuring phrases.  Here is one of them:  "In obedience lay the integrity that God asked of her.  If anyone had asked her what she meant by integrity she would not have been able to tell them but she had seen it once like a picture in her mind, a root going down into the earth and drinking deeply there.  No one was really alive without that root."

Integrity imaged as a root drinking deeply from water under the surface of the earth.  Such a plant must surely be the fruit of receptivity to God. 

What are some of my integrity “roots?” I find myself a bit like Goudge’s character, cousin Mary.  I’m not sure I can describe them head on.  But when I act in accordance with them, I know water rises to the surface.  When I seek to ignore these long-nurtured roots of obedience I wither. I am blocking the water of my own integrity root, choking the life out of it.

So here’s an example: yesterday I came home from Minneapolis by plane.  Even a short trip is challenging these days.  I would prefer to go behind the mask of my face and pull in. Anonymous. No energy expended for the stranger.  I went in and out of integrity for the several hours I spent in long lines and cramped cabins.  I was tired, but when I smiled and cared about the stranger next to me, the root found water.  And when I pulled in as on my own desert island, I, along with my neighbor, went without the water resting just below the surface.

Lord, have mercy.  May I act with the integrity of obedience that my life might tap into the depth of water that bathes those critical roots. 


  1. Your comments make me wince in the most productive way. I am more comfortable unengaged or engaged on my own selfish and limited terms. So many things come to mind: that it was not good for the man to dwell alone; that the one who dwells alone is self indulgent; that the righteous are like the trees in psalm 1 and that our roots must stretch and grow towards the water deep in the soil of God's love in order to drink and live. "Father, deliver me from the dryness of my self-centered ways!"

  2. I love her writing. Scent of Water is one of my favorites! Thanks Carla for this refreshing (and convicting)word. I'm pretty sure I spent my last plane ride with my roots untapped and my seatmate unwatered.

  3. Goudge's image of integrity as a water-bathed root does bring a very vivid image to many every-day activities. "Avoid tripping over your own roots" might not be a bad reminder for all of us on/off people.

  4. Thank you, Carla, for your words.

    I have been meditating on this image for the past few days. How is integrity like a root going down and drinking deeply? In general, I think of integrity, or character, as the result of wisdom chosen through time. You can submit your soul to wisdom in a moment, but integrity emerges when you chose it again and again, so that the path of wisdom creates a grove in your soul. That is integrity to me – this idea of having been in many moments with similar choices and having been rythmically obedient to wisdom. So, I liked the image of a root going deeply down. It images time and repetition. I think of the downward reaching of the root as the strong act of submission to wisdom. And the drinking of water as the ever-present ministry of the Holy Spirit to those who, by faith, obey. I hear that, too, in your phrase “these long-nurtured roots of obedience." I love that!

    In my own life, the “integrity roots” take many forms. As a single woman, “invitations” to choose wisdom come particularly frequently in the area of relationships. : ) A myriad of mundane opportunities daily offer the chance to grow in integrity or wither without water - how will I speak about someone not present, will I cling to something (or someone) God is taking away, will I forgive, will I let the Lord be my confidence, will I give thanks, will I have the courage for needed conversations, etc. Without a doubt, these choices affect whether or not I am withering or drinking – and, like you with your neighbor on the plane, whether those around me have the refreshment of the water resting just below the surface.

  5. Ah, Nichole, your words take me back to what must surely have been Goudge's source--if not consciously, then bound way down into the soil of her own heart. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does. he prospers." (Ps.1)