Our family built a raised bed garden this spring. We talked about the idea of it for months prior, teeter-tottering between dreams and hesitations. In my daydreams, I imagined how it would serve as both a guide and needed distraction to some of the challenges we’ve been facing as a family.
But the truth that’s haunted this dream of a garden is that I’ve never been good with plants. I grew up with a mom who had the ability to converse with plants and animals and babies and a dad so tender and patient — all living things, from plants to pets to people, naturally leaned towards him when he was in the same room.
When my husband and I moved into our first home ten years ago, my mom gifted us with a houseplant. Given the plant-whispering parents I came from, I thought it would easily thrive. But I watered it sporadically, and some days I forgot it was there. I took its initially bright, green leaves and reserved nature for granted. And even with my lack of attention made obvious over time with its brown, shriveled leaves, I still expected it to stay alive. I believed the brokenness would turn. But it didn’t, and the plant died.
So, we got another plant. That one died too.
Here’s what I’ve learned about myself since those early days of plant care: I am an impatient, broken caregiver, and this cannot be avoided or bypassed quickly. Learning how to tend and care for growing things is a lifelong lesson of grace. It is an imperfect process. It takes time and for so long, I was resistant to and embarrassed by that process of time and the way my own need for tender care was linked to it.
Instead of taking to the process, I named myself a plant killer.
I joked about having a brown thumb and told people I couldn’t be trusted to keep any plant alive, even the ones that were supposed to require the least amount of care. I joked about it because it was true and because it was easier to joke about it than to keep trying and failing again.
I chose to name myself before I’d had a chance to stretch up towards the surface of soil I’d been placed in. I expected to be something before the Light had a chance to tenderly pull me into the process of becoming. So often, I still want to bypass the becoming altogether, forgetting that Jesus has a name for me that only He knows, one that’s inextricably linked to my becoming.
Sometimes, I still have trouble realizing that I am made to grow through failing and flailing, from soil mixed with loss and lament, and by coming face to face with my ever-present need, again and again. I thought I would be so many things by the time I reached this middle stage in life. But these days, my leaves look different than I ever expected they would.
I’ve checked on our little garden every day since we added it to the yard. The kids keep watching it as well, and they’ve each taken to their own ways of caring for it. Our oldest checks on it daily and goes to pick out everything that’s fallen into its square spaces with wind and rain, inspecting every sign of new growth or change. Our youngest chases bunnies away from it and looks for new flowers and bug visitors. Our middle guy worries about whether the leaves have had enough water and if they might be too cold. I talk to the plants, hoping for growth and fruit and life but better prepared to keep space for the unavoidable companions of joy and disappointment that accompany every growing thing.
It seems timely that we’ve planted hopes in a season that keeps bringing the reality of brokenness to our conversations and everyday life. I’ve been weighed down for weeks by the heartbreak of so many people I love near and far, by bad news, illness that’s stealing life from the fabric of my family tree, and disappointment as I witness the impatience and brokenness of care in the Church.
All of it begs me to look closely and ask myself if I am willing to let the people and things around me become: my family, my marriage, myself, my relationships, my gifts, my city, and my church. Will I let these things stretch and pull, break and shatter under the weight of weather and weeds, be pruned and transformed, and keep my own tenderness and need for it alive? I’m slowing learning the way life can bloom in the midst of our collective long-suffering of becoming.
Despite our brokenness, this backyard raised bed has become a family hope, a reminder of the kingdom of God here now and yet to come. And these days, I am not ashamed to say that I am desperate for the reminders.
Life can bloom in the midst of our collective long-suffering of becoming. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet