Over the past few months, I’ve posted about the variation between the theoretical and reality and how, often, the two can be quite incompatible. Sometimes life defies simple answers with its messy complexity and apparent inability to flow according to well-laid plans. Recently, my family embarked on a gardening adventure that reminded me just how unexpected reality can be. And, the same experience later prompted me to delve deeper and consider how the mystery of new life often unfolds in similarly unexpected manners. There are notions of how certain experiences or transformations will occur but in reality the process is often a mysterious journey.
Several weeks ago, I designed a family garden planting project which involved starting seeds indoors to eventually transplant to the garden beds in our backyard. I am still a novice gardener, however, based on the previous year’s experience of starting seeds, I had developed what I felt was a fairly organized and comprehensive plan for this year’s planting project. The day of our indoor seed starting project arrived and I had the entire experience planned out:
✔ Potting soil
✔ Seedling cups
✔ Last minute switch to indoor planting due to lingering snow
✔ Tarp to prevent damage to the carpet
✔ Printed list of thoroughly researched best seed starting time frames
✔ Inspirational seed planting music
✔ Lay the groundwork for the family seed planting adventure by excitedly bringing up the topic every day for weeks
It was finally planting day! My family gathered in the basement as I carefully explained the process. My heart was bursting with joy over this highly anticipated memory-making experience and my ego was quite inflated with thoughts of what a good mother I was for involving my family in gardening. However, about 30 seconds in, my kids lost interest. THEY LOST INTEREST! They, like all children, could not not touch ALL THE THINGS. And, also, they could not not run in circles while I tried to make sure the bag of soil didn’t get bumped over. They slowed their perpetual motion long enough to tamp two seeds each into the starting pots I had reserved for the flowers they had picked out before resuming their circle chase. After a minute, I sent them outside before they had a chance to run into the table and send everything flying. My perfect, idealized, organized, anticipated-for-weeks, seed starting experience was seemingly over before it even started. Although my husband and I enjoyed planting the seeds while listening to my well-curated playlist, the afternoon didn’t look anything like the occasion I had so carefully planned.
As I began to care for the small, dirt-filled seedling cups, I thought about the transformation that was taking place under the soil and how a seed, a tiny and seemingly insignificant thing, if given access to the necessary resources, grows into a plant that is capable of producing edible food or breathtakingly beautiful flowers. It is mind boggling. The process seems unfathomable. Similarly, new life often emerges shrouded in mystery, almost always outside of the boundaries of well-laid plans, and typically unfolds at an imperceptible pace – certainly never within the confines of immediacy demanded by most of life’s expectations.
I found myself considering several sermons I heard this year. One message emphasized how life starts in the dark. That often what we assume is a messy difficulty to be avoided at all cost is actually the groundwork of new life. Another message highlighted the detail of how the good news of Jesus’ resurrection occurred in the quiet of early morning while it was still dark. It seems appropriate that, often, new life begins to unfold and grow in the dark similar to the small seeds tucked into the dirt. There is hope in the message that, often, when things seem dark or uncertain, God is creating new life. God often transforms lives in the quiet darkness of unexpected moments, appearing to us in unexpected manners in ways we don’t always initially recognize as being life-changing. Similarly, as shared by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie in their “Good Enough” devotional, “Maybe this is what it means to be an Easter person – to see Christ and think, Gardener, not as a mistaken identity but a prophetic one. The seed in the ground, the body in the tomb – this is a picture of defiant hope.”
Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time preparing garden beds, turning over soil, carefully planning where each seedling and seed might be planted. And as I’ve worked, I’ve allowed myself space to reflect on these hope-filled messages and to consider the mystery of the seed. As I envisioned how my garden will grow out of small seeds, I couldn’t help but think of how new life, new dreams, new paths often form out of the darkness of the unknown or unexpected. How hope can spring from the smallest moment. How transformation can occur through the unexpected experiences of life detours, unfulfilled plans, necessary dramatic shifts along a seemingly circuitous route. Sometimes new life doesn’t look anything like we anticipated. Sometimes the transformational process is awkward and cumbersome. Probably because change is uncomfortable.
My gardening adventure has slowly evolved from starting seeds to watching tiny sprouts begin to emerge through the dark soil. As their slow process has evolved, it has been a comforting reminder to allow myself moments of quiet to contemplate my own personal growth. The transformation of seeds has provided a renewed opportunity to reflect on the quiet mysteries of new life that unfold continuously along the journey.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photos