by Mary Marantz
This is for the one who is tired right now, bone weary and ready to give up. The one who has been fighting so hard, for so long to grow good things… but it seems like all the work you have put in has been for nothing.
I want to remind you today, you were always the one asked to be faithful with the planting. But you were never the one with the power to make it grow (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
The other day I was talking to my husband Justin about all these dreams we hold in our hands. I told him through salty, hopeful tears, “We can plant the seeds in the ground, but we can’t go in and rip them open in the hopes of speeding up the process.”
If you really pause to think about it, there is magic there. Miracle.
You can be the best gardener in the world. All the conditions can be right. The best tools. All the right know-how. A fertile ground to start from. But no matter what you do, you cannot force a thing to grow.
Somewhere between the planting and the harvest, we have to leave room for the miracle to happen. This magic that occurs in darkness, away from the watchful eyes of a waiting world. Those moments when you think you are buried, but that’s really when the most important work is being done.
For the past several years, I’ve been working on this very scientific theory that when it comes to our life’s purpose and our own growth, there are basically two types of people we can choose to be: weeds or trees.
Weeds are very successful at first glance. They seem to pop up out of nowhere overnight and grow faster than everyone around them. Their presence spreads like wildfire. Where one day there was nothing, suddenly they are everywhere you turn. And as their reach grows to dizzying heights almost instantly, it is very tempting to say that you want to grow just like a weed. That is, until you realize that in the weed’s insatiable desire to grow upward, higher and higher, heads above the rest . . . they have forgotten to grow deep. They have spent so much of their energy on how big and impressive they are on the surface that they never got around to making sure they also had roots, something of substance and surety they are anchored to. And that means that when the slightest storm comes, the slightest push, they fall right over. They grew only for themselves. They stood for nothing. They took instead of giving. And that, it turns out, will always be their undoing.
And then you have those people who go beyond just growing for themselves, who go beyond just making something pretty or impressive on the surface. Those people are what I call trees. See, a tree can grow up and up, as high as you can imagine, with its arms stretched out wide. But here’s the interesting thing about a tree that you might not know: for however high and wide a tree stretches its branches . . . its roots will always stretch wider. It digs in before it ever tries to grow up. And as a result, it is not tossed by every storm that comes. It knows what it stands for, it holds fast to what it’s anchored to. And while a tree may indeed be a thing of incredible beauty or something immensely impressive that we all look up to, it is never satisfied with being merely that. Instead, it chooses to also bear fruit. To create something to be shared and given away so that others might be fed by what it has created.
In all of our lives, my hope is that we will always strive to be trees. To grow and stretch our fingers toward the sky, but never out of reach of our roots and where we came from. To provide shade and shelter for others. To be not just a thing of beauty that fades but something that leaves others better for having found us. And to choose to grow slow and steady over the long haul, because that’s how you get to walk among the giants.
(Remember: There is a reason milkweed is on a different timetable than the redwood forest.)
And anytime that growing gets just a little too slow, I hope we will remind ourselves of what Justin is always telling me, what he has been telling me patiently for the last fifteen years . . .
Slow growth equals strong roots.
Mary Marantz is the bestselling author of Dirt and Slow Growth Equals Strong Roots: Finding Grace, Freedom & Purpose in an Overachieving World, from which this article is excerpted. She grew up in a trailer in rural West Virginia before getting her law degree from Yale Law School. Mary is also the host of the highly ranked podcast The Mary Marantz Show and her work has been featured on CNN, MSN, Business Insider, Bustle, Thrive Global, Southern Living, Hallmark Home & Family, and more. Learn more at MaryMarantz.com.