I walked out my front door one morning a couple weeks ago and glanced over at the potted succulents sitting on my porch. I am no green thumb, so at first glance I was just proud to see that these little guys were still alive (winning). But upon further inspection, I noticed this odd shoot coming up from the center of one of them. Looks like I had managed to mess up a supposedly unkillable plant after all. I thought about cutting off the shoot right then, but I needed to get on my way with errands.
Fast forward to the next evening. We were gathered for a birthday dinner with some friends from church and the topic of succulents came up. I told my friends about my poor little deformed succulent baby. As I explained it, one my friends started to laugh. “Tara, that’s a good thing!” she said. “Your succulent is blooming.”
I had a good laugh too. Here I was assuming that this growth was odd and undesirable, because I had never seen a succulent grow and thrive before. It got me thinking about growth and flourish (my word of the year) and how this might parallel in our lives.
Most of the time, when we’re growing, we don’t see the bloom right away (especially from the outside). But as we grow different enough to be noticed, there are typically a couple things that can happen. First, we can feel a little awkward. We’re used to doing things a certain way and being a certain way. We’ve become accustomed to our life the way it is, and if we’re growing then that means we’re changing some (or a lot) of that. We can start to feel a little like that awkward sprout right in the middle of the usual and the ordinary.
Second, it may feel like we’re a little out of place. When you are growing and the people around you aren’t, there can be some tension that occurs. People are used to viewing you and experiencing you a certain way. Sometimes our growth requires putting up boundaries or changing the time we spend with certain people. Sometimes it doesn’t affect others personally, but they start to compare the old you and the new you. Or, they compare the new you to the current them. When you start to change and grow, people have to decide how they are going to respond to it.
Let me say that again—THEY have to decide how THEY will respond to it. In the best cirucmstance, you’re surrounded by people who rally around you and cheerlead for you as you grow. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Sometimes people feel threatened by your change and growth. That response is not healthy, and it’s also not yours to carry. You should do what you can to make peace in the relationship, but ultimately their response and reaction is their own responsibility and should not be a factor in your continued growth.
Colossians 1:10-11 tells us that God intends for us to grow and bear fruit. “…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…”
John 15:8 says “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
Psalm 92:12-14 gives us a beautiful imagery. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
Not only does God want us to bear fruit (grow and do good things) that pleases Him, but He says that our ability to do so will come from our connectedness with Him. He is the source of our fruit. We are the branches and he is the vine. When connected, we are given everything we need to grow and thrive. (All these plant references are seriously helpful, right?).
Nowhere in these verses does God say, “Remain in me and bear fruit…well unless it makes someone feel bad about themselves.” or “Abide in my love and continue to grow, unless someone else doesn’t approve of the changes I am making in you.” People did not die for us, Jesus did. His opinion is the ONE that has to matter the most.
When I wrote my book and put it out into the world, I’ll be honest, I had fears that some people who knew me might say “Who is she to write a book like this?” I quickly shut those thoughts down and went for it anyway obviously, but my point is that we were meant to change and grow regardless of what people think. God wants that for us—He planned that for us. So, if you are in a season of stretching and growing, keep going! It might feel a little awkward and you might have some tension or some “haters”, but shake the dust off your feet and keep moving, sister! When that tension arises, you know you’re doing something right. You’ve got this!