So, I just love this plant. I really do. I’ve had it for more than 6 years. I could even figure out the exact number of days that I’ve had it in our home, because I remember the very day that I received it: September 18th, 2008. It’s an easy day to remember because it was the day that we gathered to say goodbye to my father in law. The plant was one of many that were given to my mother in law in remembrance of a great man.
I have so valued the plant and enjoyed it for years, and through the years I’ve made sure to water it and ensure that it has light, etc. But, it only just occurred to me that this plant looks almost exactly the same as when I got it. It hasn’t gotten much bigger or taller. If I had taken a photo of the plant on that day in 2008, I doubt that it would look much different than it looks now. It’s life has been sustained, maintained, but it hasn’t really flourished because it has been con-tained. The size of the con-tainer has limited it’s growth. How could this beautiful plant be expected to grow bigger when the container has limited where it’s roots could go. There’s no branching out of the roots…only a turning inward.
Maintenance looks a lot different than thriving. You can probably see where I’m going. Am I like that plant? I’m functioning, maintaining, sustaining the necessary things in a day, in my life, but…is there growth? Am I moving forward, growing, changing, branching out? Or are my roots turning inward, like a plant with huge potential to flourish that’s trapped in a small pot? Am I merely living through life day by day satisfied with the status quo, but not really making an impact in the lives of those around me? Am I like that plant: safe, functioning, living, breathing, but not thriving? There’s a verse in Ephesians that talks about being “rooted and grounded in love”. It says
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
It talks about understanding what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. ” So here’s the thing. I think that growth as a Believer has a lot to do with a true awareness of the love of Christ. Do I “dig my roots’ daily in the understanding of the breadth and length and height and know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge? The richest soil for the Christian is not one steeped in a list of dos and don’ts, but in an understanding of the love of Christ for His people that makes the list of dos and don’ts not a chore, but a privilege and honor. For those who know the depth of the love of Christ respond to His call in the same way a plant grows toward the light, the same way an under – watered plant perks up quickly when watered. It is a natural response, an instantaneous reaction.
So, here’s the thing. I’m thinking that…just as small containers can restrain growth in beautiful plants, so a shallow understanding of the depths of the love of Christ can limit the growth in believers in huge, yet often in small and not readily noticed ways. If we do not have a grasp of the love of Christ, not just in theory, but in our own personal lives, it is so easy to feel as though everything is up to us. It is easy to hem ourselves in and be afraid of risking, trusting.
So here’s a visual for you, and for me. What if the plant is you or me and the soil is our view of who God is in His relation to us? And what if the greater the awareness and understanding of the depths of Christ’s love, the deeper those roots can go, and the higher the branches can reach. , the more space there is for the plant (you or me) to branch out, to grow, and to flourish. What if we, like that plant, often keep (con-tain) ourselves because of our true lack of understanding an awareness of the One True God who has created all? Or better yet, what if…..we didn’t?
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 tells a story of a man who did, a man who didn’t, and a man who lingered in the status quo. Three men were given talents. One invested and doubled the talents. He was told to ‘enter in the joy of His master’. He knew the ‘joy of His master’. One man invested as well and made two talents. And one man said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” (Mt 25: 15).
Fear tends to lead to hiding, protecting, measuring…. If we are fearful of a constant negative response, we, like the third tenant in the parable of the talents, tend to restrain, turn inward, not branch out, not risk, not trust. But if we have faith in a “Joyful Master”? Faith leads to flourishing, moving forward, trusting. Do I fear God as a “difficult Master”, or do I trust Him as a joyful Master?” Our movement, our desire to branch out can so depend on the ‘soil’, the mindset, the environment, that we surround ourselves with. In I Corinthians 13:13, it says, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Often, I’ve so thought that this verse was all about what we DO. About our actions. I know that’s part of it. We are to have faith, to hope, to love. But look what the verse says. It says, “ABIDE” these three. An abode is where you live. Where you camp. Where you stay…like seed in a soil.
So here’s the thing. We as Christians can have a hundred things we have not done, and a hundred things we have yet to do. We can have a constant sense of constraint because of what we are or are not. We can strive to be, to do, to measure up, to amount to things but when the focus is on ourselves, it is so easy to have those proverbial “roots” turn inward, and there is little growth, little branching out. But if where we abide, where our thoughts settle in, where we camp, …our soil, so to speak, is that of knowing that we are loved by a Joyful Master? We can thrive. Thrive. Instead of being like a plant constrained by this or that, we can be like a plant that branches out, digs it’s roots into the depths, and thrives. And plants that thrive? They tend to have a lot more fruit than those that don’t.
2 responses to a few thoughts on being contained
I greatly appreciate this reflection. A motto of sorts for our family is to ‘thrive and not just survive’. God offers us so much greatness, exceedingly & abundantly, yet we are too often guilty of thinking we’re not worthy or even worse, that He doesn’t desire to bless us in this way. We should constantly be growing through life, with God being the perfect blend of soil, light, and water we need to achieve great things in Him!
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Thank you so much for your comments…it really encouraged me. That’s a great motto for a family and such a great reminder. I needed the reminder today 🙂 Thanks so much!