“But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”Matthew 13:8
I still remember visiting my grandparents in North Carolina and running through their big garden. My Gigi would hand me a big ole white bucket, and I was sent to go pick green beans for that night’s dinner. I would run through these rows of vegetables, feeling the hot summer sun on my skin. I remember watching my Pawpaw watering his watermelons and hoping that one was ripe enough to enjoy during our visit. There was something magical about searching for vegetables and fruits amongst the endless rows of vines, leaves, and stems.
One summer when I was in middle school, I took a job helping one of the ladies in the parish weed the flower beds. There was something so satisfying about pulling up all those tough weeds in the morning sun. I would carefully push the mulch over those spots where the weeds had left their mark. I didn’t want any evidence of the weeds that had tried to choke out the plants. When I came to Mass on Sundays, I had a newfound appreciation for all the hard work and dedication that it took to keep those flower beds looking so beautiful. Someone was always working behind the scenes, pulling up the weeds that would stifle the beauty of every bush and flower.
As the gardener weeds, so the plant continues to grow in the richness of the nutrients available, unaware of all the precautions taken to sustain its growth. When I think about my life as this growing garden, I wonder how many weeds the Lord has had to pull from my life to help me to grow abundantly? How many times were there difficult friendships that have been painfully removed in order to make room for the growth of more fruitful friendships? How many times has He allowed me to miss opportunities where I would have known more heartache and pain than joy and laughter? How many times in my life was I praying for a specific intention that was really a weed in my life that needed to be pulled? He knows how to care for me. But like the little plant, I am unaware of the gardener’s weeding and His ultimate protection over my life.
I felt the Lord calling me back to the joy of gardening as a way for Him to continue to strengthen my spiritual journey. God continues to teach us so many lessons through nature. As our family life continues to undergo much change and many unknowns, I felt that starting a portable garden was a great way to focus my time and attention on the beauty and simplicity of nature.
Maybe the Lord needed me to focus on pouring my time and attention into the beginnings of a garden, while He spiritually poured into me.
So the work began…
Pour soil, plant, pour more soil, water.
Small rows of cardboard with planted vegetables, each carefully labeled with its end product, covered the shelf under my bay window.
Peppers, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes… the excitement was building.
Each morning we checked that soil for the smallest green speck of color.
The wonder of watching a single small, green seedling burst through dark soil had been holding my attention for the past two weeks.
Every day, checking the progress. Knowing that so much growth was happening in the darkness of the soil. In the depth of nothingness where that growth couldn’t be seen until that little seedling shot forth.
I love the journey of the seed from seedling to full plant. The struggle to be strongly rooted, the tremendous growth of the stem and branches, and the flowering and bearing of fruit. Each stage comes with its own difficulties, and hidden challenges. So much of the struggle is a mystery. Not just to the seed but to the onlooker, as well.
It is my love for the story of the journey that makes gardening so intriguing. There is beauty whenever something must die to produce new life and growth. As we bury the seed, and cover it with dirt, we joyfully await the growth of the little seed as it pushes through and cracks the shell of its seed to grow its first support system. While on the surface, the seed can appear to not be growing at all, it is during this time of anticipation that the seed creates the most important “work” of the plant: It is anchoring itself to the soil through roots. These roots will provide the gateway for nutrients and water to continue to nourish the plant well into fruition. This step, although often hidden from sight, is where the greatest foundation is being laid.
Rooted means being “anchored” or “attached” significantly in a way that allows nourishment and growth. We often find that our plants that struggle to grow deep roots cannot support the upward growth that the plant will later undergo. This plant will soon wither and die.
Every trial or element that the plant undergoes it can withstand because of the roots of the plant. The stems of these plants may bend in a rainstorm, or appear damaged by the wind, but their roots will keep them firmly planted. Any plant, strongly rooted, is going to be able to maintain growth. This growth happens regardless of the wind, weather, or hot sun.
Obviously, so many comparisons can be made between the growth and transformation of a seed to seedling, and to the transformation that the Lord can do within us regardless of what others might see.
Oftentimes, the roots of a plant are growing deeply before there’s any evidence of a plant growing upward.
What does it mean to be rooted in your faith? What does it mean to have a solid foundation on which to grow your faith?
Sometimes we struggle so much trying to be people that are bearing fruit, that we forget that,we, too, need strong roots. We need to be so “rooted” in the truth of our faith, in our identity as a son or daughter in Christ, and in our need for the Eucharist as the source of our spiritual nutrients, before we can produce fruit.
If we want to continue to bear fruit, we need to understand where our nourishment and provisions come from. Like the little plants, we must not grow frustrated by the lack of upward “growth”, but trust that we are being rooted in deeper truths that will sustain us through the trials of life.
Just as our plants continue to grow in height and strength, so are we, too, often being stretched in our faith walk. Sufferings and trials in our faith walk are similar to the beatings that a young plant takes by the wind and rain. These are inevitable. But once we’re deeply rooted, these trials have a minimal effect on our growth. In fact, these trials strengthen our stems, and our spiritual walk. We learn quickly that we can handle these elements.
When our time comes to bear fruit, we will bear it in abundance because we have the roots to sustain the growth necessary for fruition.
Lord, help me to stay focused on where you have me. If I am being rooted, help me to focus on the truths of my faith. If I am growing, help me to buffet the blows of suffering and trials, leaning on the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts to get me through this journey. However, if I am bearing fruit, help me to look back in gratitude on all the work you have cultivated, all the years that you have walked with me to produce this great work in me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”John 15:5