I remember the hunt for this plant that my mom had given me. We had recently moved into a new house with a large garden area, and the prior growing season I had stuck the plant in the ground, hastily, but now had plans for a better spot. This particular plant was a climber, and I had decided to put it a little closer to our house, where it could grow onto a proper trellis. The only obstacle at this point was finding the thing! We were well into spring and there was a lush green covering of weeds on the ground that obscured any sign of my plant. After about a half hour of searching, I spotted it and, in triumph, let out a victorious announcement to my husband across the yard: “I found my clematis!!!” (I can only imagine what my neighbors were thinking, hearing my declaration out of context!)
As I delicately pulled the weeds away from the base of my clematis plant, I took notice of its state. It was sad- looking to say the least. It had been in the shade of the weeds. It had withered a bit, not being upright, and was very lame looking. It’s “arms” had fastened themselves around every other plant it could grab ahold of, as is a climbing plant’s nature, and each one was holding on for dear life, unaware that it wasn’t growing in the way it would thrive. It just did what it was made to do. Reach out. Hold on. Attach itself to anything that it could, unknowingly making itself weaker and weaker.
My adolescence and young adult life had been much like this tangled mess. I had planted myself in the weeds so to speak. As I was growing up, I wanted so much to belong to something. In as much an attempt to survive and to fit in, I would grab precariously at whatever I could attach myself to. Whether it was a relationship, a friend group, an interest or ideal- I was desperate to belong and to know who I was. I would cling to and often become codependent, hoping that this would be the answer to my incompleteness. This would give me an identity. But the tighter I held on, the more I lost who I was. Unable to flourish in a life that clung to others, to substances, to false identities- I felt small, ineffective, and unwanted. When the things I held onto proved to be unstable, unsteady, or seasonal, I, unable to differentiate myself from them, fell too.
Ultimately, the more I grabbed the further I was growing apart from leading the life I was designed to, one that had meaning and impact…
Back in the moment of my current plant debacle, it was a tedious job of trying to untangle the vine from the plants it had attached itself to. And as I tried my best to unwind it without complete decimation, I couldn’t help but think of how much of a mess it was, all because it wasn’t planted and anchored in its proper place, to a structure that was designed to hold it.
In order to flourish in our lives we have to have a foundation that we can anchor out roots to. We are beings that have purpose. We aren’t just wild weeds. We are searching for direction and we have the potential in each of us to grow up and have impact. The foundation of where we needed to be planted is in Jesus.
Many climbing plants like the clematis need a structure. Because it was born to grow upwards, it will reach out and grab onto whatever it can to do so. If it doesn’t have the trellis it will choke our other plants and itself, for it cannot grow in the way it was designed- it cannot flourish- without that structure. If we, in our lives, do not structure ourselves to healthy Jesus centered practices, we will look else where for our identity, our meaning, and our worth- in turn losing our potency and potential. We will wilt and become ineffective, unable to differentiate ourselves from the weeds we’ve grown attached to.
“Therefore anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the streams rose and the wind blew and beat against that house and yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25
If we aren’t paying attention to Jesus’ very words, “puts them into practice”, we can have our feet on the correct foundation, but we aren’t fully anchored into a life that will keep us from being tossed about with each new storm. The key to flourishing is the foundation AND the structure of which you build your walk with Jesus. The trellis of what we need to adhere our life to is the practices that keep us growing up in our faith, which will in turn bear the fruit of a meaningful and purposeful life.
How do we flourish?
- 1.) Make Jesus your foundation. How? Trust Him. Decide that He is where you are planting yourself and learn as you go. Doubts and questions are part of the process of solidifying your faith. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Start where you are. Jesus isn’t afraid of your questions or doubt. In fact, being with Him in the midst of those is where the deepest roots are formed.
- 2.) Outline the practices that create a good spiritual life. These are often your prayer life, your Bible reading time, your sabbath (YEP! You need to rest!) and the time spent in God’s presence. There are SO MANY resources on creating good spiritual practices. A fantastic book to learn all about spiritual practices is “God in my Everything,” by Ken Shigematsu, or you can check out this excerpt on creating a “Rule of Life” (practices), from Practicingthe way.org, here: https://practicingtheway.org/unhurrying-with-a-rule-of-life/workbook
- 3.) Practice. You won’t get it right the first time, and your practices will change! Start small, stay consistent and pray for opportunities for growth!