My Internet friend Father Brian Cavanaugh tells a funny story about growth. He relates an experience that occurred during seminary days in his book More Sower's Seeds: Second Planting. He and two friends thought to plant a small vegetable garden outside their house of studies. It would consist of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers and the only financial investment required was for them to rent a rake, a pickax and a hoe. The urban environment didn’t allow much space for a garden, but they determined that a small, sunny area of the stone-covered dirt parking lot could work well. However, permission would be needed and they feared that getting the superior’s okay might be no easy task.
The three seminarians explained their idea to him. His response was a tilt of the head a pronouncement. “You’re wasting your time. Nothing will grow there.” But he allowed them to go ahead if that was what they wanted to do.
Reluctant permission is still permission and the three young men began work. First they raked stones and outlined the garden. Then they slammed their pickax into hard dirt, turning clumps of earth upside down. What they discovered just a few inches beneath the surface brought smiles to their faces. It was a gardener’s dream: dark, composted, fertile soil, likely the result of a former refuse area. Still grinning broadly, all three looked at one another and said in unison, “Ah, nothing will grow there!”
The garden, though small, turned out to be spectacular. In fact, tomatoes grew so vigorously they were re-staked twice and finally topped off at seven feet tall. Nothing will grow there indeed!
Don’t believe the words “nothing will grow there.” Especially when assessing your own life. As long as you are alive you can grow and change. You don’t have to stay the way you are. Almost anything you desire can grow within you.
What do you need? Courage for difficult task? Hope and optimism in your despair? Strength or persistence? Faith in something greater than yourself? Rekindled trust in other people?
What is it you need? Deeper understanding? A greater capacity for love? Inner peace or joy? Don’t believe that nothing will grow there. When you assess your own life, consider it with the eye of a gardener. Underneath the surface lies rich, fertile soil waiting to nurture the seeds you sow. Even more than you can imagine will grow there if given a chance.
I like the observation of writer George Eliot, "It's never too late to be who you might have been." You may not always see the potential for growth, but it is there. All the rich compost you need is hidden just beneath the surface.
Plant it. Cultivate it. Tend it. Something WILL grow there – believe it. And it will be magnificent.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).