Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
Have you ever been in a season where it feels like everything is painful or at least uncomfortable, where you’re filled with doubt and you wish you could see some light on your path ahead to show you that the future holds some hope? I’ve had a rough few months personally, nothing big or dramatic. But I’m working on growing some new things in my life, new habits and new ways of thinking and a new business, and let me tell you, it is an uncomfortable process. I was sitting in church this week and the sermon inspired a thought in me, a question I’d like to ask you.
How does growth happen?
The Bible is not a botany textbook, but in John 12:24 Jesus, the author and creator of all life, makes a statement about growth. It goes something like this: Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it does nothing. It remains dormant. But… if it dies… it produces fruit. He was speaking about himself, and his upcoming crucifixion, but he also applied it to anyone who follows him. I’d like to go ahead and apply it here to everyone.
Do you remember doing experiments in elementary school to observe the growth of plants? I do, and I must have thought it was pretty fascinating, because the image has stuck with me for years. You take a brown dried out seed, put it in some dirt, water it, and wait. Keep watering, keep waiting. In a few weeks, a little baby green plant slowly begins to emerge from the dirt, sometimes with the remnants of the original seed still clinging to it. It’s like magic, or a miracle. But what is happening in those weeks in the dirt?
The seed, already dormant, dies. It shrivels, wrinkles, softens a little, and finally breaks apart. The new seedling then reaches slowly for the air and light, growing incrementally toward the surface while also sending slender roots deeper into the dirt. It finally breaks the crust of the earth, spreads its first fragile leaves, struggles to hold them upright on a tiny slip of a stem, and begins the process of photosynthesis, growing stronger and greener in the light and the rain, until it eventually becomes a strong plant, vine, or tree, capable of producing seeds that can one day become hundreds more plants, vines, or trees.
It all starts with darkness. Death. Shattering pain. A wound that may never fully heal. Doubt. Losing hope. Reaching, trying, failing, wondering if anything will ever feel right again. Then, just when all seems loss, when everything seems the hardest, when everything within you and around you screams it’s not worth it, it’s time to give up…
Light, growth, and abundance.
The growth that everyone around you sees comes only after the pain that you endure alone. If you are blessed with positive people and healthy relationships there may be people around you, encouraging you, watering and feeding your dream, but that initial shriveling and dying and breaking apart is a quiet secret that happens in the death of your soul where only God sees. He will let you break because he knows what is coming from it. But he will never abandon you. He is always there. When your faith is too weak to see him, he is strong enough to keep you from falling apart. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. He knows your pain. He’s acquainted with death and darkness. He overcame it, and we can too. That is a promise.