I love gardening, but unfortunately, I tend to kill plants. My “garden” looks more like an exhibition on various stages of plant death. When you add in the fact that the ground around my house is the equivalent of red bricks and potter’s clay, it’s clear why my desire for a flourishing garden doesn’t always match my reality. So, I am faced with a dilemma: I can either mourn that my desire will never be realized, or I can start cultivating an environment for growth.
I believe there are five key factors that can help us cultivate an environment for growth in our lives. These factors are grace, honesty, effort, community, and time.
The first factor, grace, may seem like an odd place to start. Though we don’t often use this word in our daily vernacular, grace is essential when it comes to growth. Grace is what gives me the freedom to start off as a horrible gardener; it gives us all the freedom to be in process. Though we each have certain natural abilities and skills, none of us are skilled in every area. We will all struggle in some aspects of our lives, and we must give ourselves the grace to be in process. We must also watch out for the enemy of grace: comparison. Comparison can kill growth in our lives by elevating our expectations beyond what is healthy or even possible.
When we give ourselves grace, we can then be honest about ourselves and our situation. Honesty helps us deal with the reality of our current environment, accept that we are lacking in various areas, and pursue what is needed to achieve health in an area of need. While being honest about our level of proficiency may be humbling, it is there that we must start.
Once we have honestly identified our abilities or inabilities in various situations we must then invest effort. Because growth is seldom immediate, investing effort can be frustrating at times. We don’t plant gardens and have fruits and vegetables the next day. Our efforts may seem tedious and mundane at times, but it is in the faithfulness to these efforts that the seeds of growth germinate into character change. Investment of effort is a risk that we must take in order to grow.
At times our growth may be hindered by a deficiency in knowledge or resources. In these moments, we much reach out to community. In a healthy community, people freely share knowledge and resources. What one member of the community lacks, another helps to develop. Through this process, the entire community moves towards a healthy environment of growth. The weeds of comparison and the rocks of competition are removed so that individuals may lay down roots and strive towards health.
The final factor that helps us cultivate growth is time. This can be the most challenging because it is the one that is beyond our control. We cannot create more of it and we cannot regain it. Instead, we must steward what we are given and have patience for what is to come. When we try to manipulate or speed up time in the growth process, we create stress and anxiety in the areas that need growth. Instead of placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves or trying to expedite maturity, we must have patience with the natural process of growth.
I still love gardening. In fact, I recently took a class on how to do it properly (fingers crossed for fewer dead plants this year!). Realistically, however, I cannot invite you over to enjoy my garden tomorrow. I am working towards maturing as a gardener and reaching out to my community for assistance in doing so. My hope is that with some time and effort, my garden will look less like the “stages of plant death” exhibit and more like a garden that my friends and I can enjoy together.