When I was in fifth-grade, my class spent a day planting pine tree seedlings to fill areas of a local forest left bare by a lumber company cutting down trees. It was our Earth Day project and I was so excited to get out into the woods. I was even more excited when we were all given a few baby trees to take at the end of the afternoon so that we could plant them wherever we chose.
My parents helped me plant my bundle of pine trees on the border of our property. It wasn’t too long afterwards that we moved away from that house and that town…but my grandparents, uncles, and aunts remained there, living on that stretch of land where I’d ran so many times from my house to theirs. So, over the years, I’d go back to visit our family and always take a look at my trees, too. It felt good to have left something behind, something good that could keep growing; I didn’t live there anymore, but my trees did…so I felt like I was still a part of that land.
I remember when they were knee-high…I remember how impressed I was when they grew to reach my shoulders…I remember how delighted I felt, years later, when I first saw that they had finally outgrown me.
It sometimes feels like it wasn’t really that long ago when I first placed their roots in the ground, but since I’ve planted those trees? I’ve lived in no less than seven new towns, graduated from high school, moved out of my parent’s house to start college, got married and had three babies, watched my little sisters and brother grow up to start families and careers. My oldest baby started high school and my youngest is already 9.
It has been twenty-four years since I planted those seedlings.
And last week, I stood in that old yard of mine and looked up in awe at those same trees. These trees of such fragile beginnings, once so carefully carried by my ten-year-old hands, are now strong and deeply rooted. They’ve survived snow and thunderstorms, the heat of twenty-four North Carolina summers. The fragile limbs I once knew are now thick branches — and they’re home to birds, to insects, serve as the playground of happy squirrels.
The same trees that I once held in my lap on the ride home from school now touch the sky.
I haven’t been able to get those trees off my mind since I came home from that visit. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how many years have passed and all that was changing in my life while all the while, those trees were steadily digging roots into earth, drinking in sunshine and rain, stretching inch by inch, reaching higher and higher. They never tired of holding their ground. No matter how many days and weeks and years passed, they simply stood taller.
They had small beginnings, those trees. Little hands planted them and then I had to leave them, trusting them to my grandparents and to their Creator to watch over them as they grew. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, not exactly. I can’t tell you in what year they changed from seedlings or lanky adolescents into mature pines that thrive on their own. All I know is that they stand now in the fullness of what they were created to be.
It took time, and maybe that’s why I can’t get them off my mind — because it’s something I’m learning over and over again…the things that matter, the growth that matters — it all takes time and, usually, more than we expect.
It can be so, so easy to get caught up in looking for quick results. It can become a daily race to make sure we get the right numbers, the right boxes checked off, the right amount of accomplishment. There’s a feeling of urgency to succeed, a worrisome hum in the air that we’re going to get too old to matter, that there are too many people ready to take our place if we don’t out-speak and out-do them right now, right this instant. We feel guilty if we don’t finish our ideas or achieve our goals within the time-frame our culture (and our own panicked selves) expect of us…
But, most often, the truly good things in this life do take time. The garden of nourishing greens, the caterpillar’s transformation to butterfly, a baby in the womb, a child growing day by day, long-lasting friendships, a forest filled with trees…real growth and real maturity requires time.
And while we grow frustrated with anything that feels too slow, God is patient. And although He can (and sometimes does) change things in an instant, He is interested in consequences that are eternal.
He cares about the single seeds that are planted. He tends them, watches them grow, looks for harvest that endures.
The earth is layer over layer, soil rich with yesterday nourishing today.
The stars go on further and there are more of them than we can imagine and not a one of them panics that their light isn’t significant. It takes a sky full to light up the night.
He tells His story through generation upon generation, never growing weary of reaching us with His love.
There is space for you, for us, for our lives. Don’t be afraid of losing your place. Don’t be afraid of running out of time.
God has entrusted you with a dream, with the work in your hands, with the relationships in your life — be patient with these sacred gifts. Our time is in His hands…so don’t fear the passing of seasons. When we live surrendered to Him, He never wastes time. He uses it to help us grow…what He asks of us is that we follow His leading and do what He enables us to do in the day we are living now. Offer your best while you entrust Him with the enduring and eternal harvest…He promises to finish the good work He begins in us.
When we believe that it’s all up to us and that it only matters if we get it done as soon as possible – and the sooner, the better – we will begin to live, create, and love surface-deep.
When we begin to believe that our words are important only if they’re the loudest in the room, we’ll get caught up in the clamor and miss the still, small voice that matters most.
If we believe that small beginnings aren’t worth our time and effort, then we’ll never see how beauty can grow.
When we try so hard to keep up with the pace of the crowd, we will lose step with Him.
Let’s be brave enough to get quiet and listen. Let’s be brave enough to take our time. Let’s move to the rhythm He sets for us, His melody of grace.
Let’s be brave enough to trust Him.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year – keep digging roots deep into love, keep nourishing your life with Light, keep drinking in the water that you never have to fear will run dry, keep reaching out toward the heavens.
In this simple way, with patience and perseverance, we will hold our ground through every storm and the change of every season…through it all, our Creator will sustain us and we will bear the fruit He intends for us to share.
Steadily, inch by inch, we’ll keep growing into the fullness of who our God has created us to be.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.-Jeremiah 17:8