“Moderation is the inseparable companion of wisdom, but with it genius has not even a nodding acquaintance.” — Charles Caleb Colton

Matthew 13 (especially 5-6)
Galatians 6:7-10

We want it all. We want it now.

We have never been good at waiting. We like things quickly, and we realize that we are textbook examples of the American ideal of instant gratification and fast food satisfaction.  The glorious finale appeals to us so much more than the tedious process.  And yet the process cannot be eliminated, and growth takes time.  We’ve learned the hard way.

In second grade we embarked on the exciting science “adventure” (I think our teacher deemed this experiment as an “adventure,” thinking that the perilously enticing name would convince us energetic eight-year-olds that botany was fun rather than brainy). We would plant our own seeds and watch them grow.  And so we buried the seeds of infinite possibility in rich, black soil, watered appropriately and waited for the blooms.

I waited for days. Nothing sprouted. Classmates of mine, similarly disillusioned with the process, concocted rapid-growth plans that seemed quite plausible in their young, scientifically uniformed minds. If a little water was good, even more water was better. If sunlight prompted growth, excessive brightness could only cause more growth. Between the lethal combination of drowning and overexposure, our seeds never sprouted. The experiment ended with no tangible outcome.

Years have passed since this initial “green-thumb” failure, and while I have yet to retest my gardening skills, I am fascinated by the process of planting and the growth of something from virtually nothing.

A few months ago I talked with a friend who grew up on a farm. He explained the science behind weed killers. Before our conversation, I thought these chemicals annihilated the weeds because of their lethal toxicity. Yet in reality weed killers work, not because they introduce something “bad” to the plant, but instead because they provide an excess of “good.”

In an effort to preserve the limited soil and water in a field for crops, farmers use chemicals to kill the weeds. They spray the substance on the unwanted plants, and within a few minutes it withers and dies. At first glance, it appears that the chemical prevented the plant from growing, when in fact it performed just the opposite: it accelerated the growth in the weed so significantly that its demands for water and other nutrients exceeded its ability to obtain them.

In other words, the weed grew itself to death.

We love growth. We love to see movement and change, as evidenced by our consistent resolve to keep making New Year’s resolutions although we inevitably abandon them. Perhaps the problem lies not in the resolutions, but in our ability to sustain them. Growth succeeds when it is steady, when the nutrients and the resources are ample for the desired end.

What “good” things prevent growth in my life?
In what areas do I want to grow?
How can I facilitate that growth?


© 2007