I was given a bear paw succulent recently, which is meant to turn red at the tips when healthily growing.
It’s been a little over a month and there’s still no hint of red to be seen anywhere. Instead, two leaves have already fallen off after growing mould. Meanwhile, the other succulents around the office have started to bloom and even grow babies.
What made me feel discouraged was how the effort put into caring for the succulents didn’t match the results. The plants that showed growth were the ones no one really cared about.
I was like a helicopter mum, constantly hovering over my succulent to check if it needed more water or sunlight. Yet for all my effort, my succulent still hasn’t shown any growth.
We may fall into the trap of fixating on the desire for results – and end up missing what God’s doing in the process!
We all have our own ideal goals. For instance, the goal I have for my plant is for it to grow beautiful red tips. Likewise, you’ve probably set goals for yourself as well.
Having these goals isn’t wrong, but the danger lies in where our focus is. Like how I constantly hovered around my plant to check if it had bloomed yet, we may fall into the trap of fixating on the desire for results – and end up missing what God’s doing in the process!
Sometimes the journey of growth God needs to take us through isn’t what we had planned for, and that’s perfectly fine. As we stand fast in the faith, whether in our valleys or on our mountaintops, here are three reminders about growth to encourage you along the way.
1. GROWTH TAKES TIME
It often takes a lot of time before you can see any visible results.
For a sunflower seed to germinate, it takes about 7-10 days. That’s nothing compared to the 85 days it takes for the actual sunflower to bloom. Some plants can even take years!
Whether it’s being in a train that’s been delayed, a queue that’s not moving or suffering through a low-speed Internet connection, there’s nothing more frustrating and unenjoyable than being stuck in a place of waiting.
Personally, I find it incredibly difficult to wait because I just want to be at that place of victory. Every time I see a successful career woman, a mother with two kids or hear stories of missionaries on fire for Jesus, I can’t help but sigh and wonder when it’ll be my turn to reach that place.
It’s easy to lose patience and get frustrated when we allow our eagerness for results to take over us. Whether it’s getting into a relationship, becoming a cell leader or having pro guitar skills, we get frustrated when it feels like we’re not making any progress.
As long as we follow Him, He will lead us to where we need to be, when we need to be there.
Trusting God becomes even more difficult. When we lose sight of His promises, we end up feeling lost and insecure about where our lives are going. We might even be tempted to give up on our goals because the journey there is taking too long!
But God doesn’t work according to our timeline. He works according to His timeline, which is infinitely better than ours. We need to remember that it’s God who ultimately gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).
2. GROWTH CAN BE STIFLED
When I see my plant rotting away, my first instinct is to water it.
I didn’t really know what else succulents need apart from water and sunlight, so that’s what I gave it – extra water, extra sun. No problem, right? Wrong. Little did I know, my efforts to protect and nurture my plant were the very thing that was killing it.
I realised that I do this same thing in my relationships with others. My first reaction when consoling someone as a cell leader or a friend is to give solutions rather than be part of their process of growth.
It may seem counterintuitive to remain a spectator when you think you have answers or solutions, but stepping in to interfere and take control of the situation can do more harm than good. Like how too much sunlight and too much water can be bad for a succulent.
Just as each plant requires unique conditions for it to grow, God brings us through our own unique journeys of growth. It’s a very personal and intimate journey with God.
As a third party to someone else’s growth journey, we can’t fully comprehend what they’re going through and what God is doing.
It’s not like we’re completely sidelined as passive listening ears. As a cell leader, I’m tasked to guide God’s sheep and steward their growth. When taking care of plants, we give what is necessary and needed – the right amount of water and the right amount of sunlight.
Similarly, we can be part of a person’s growth by meeting their practical needs and giving them what is necessary for growth. It might be as simple as offering a ride, or it might be something like having a difficult but needed conversation.
3. GROWTH OFTEN GOES UNSEEN
The funny thing about growth is that it’s most visible with hindsight.
I met up with a friend recently and I was sharing about my experiences at Bible school. Then he told me how a few years ago I had apparently scoffed and rolled my eyes at the idea of going to Bible school.
I had completely forgot about that exchange, but looking back, I realised that it’s not that unbelievable.
I was a pretty different person back then. Only in looking back did I realise how God has brought the increase in my spiritual hunger and maturity without me really being conscious of it.
Growth is most visible with hindsight.
God never gave a “level up” notification to inform me of my progress. Neither was there really an obvious turning point where I just decided that I’m no longer this kind of person (the Justine who thought Bible school was overrated). The change just happened over time and the growth took place as God willed it to.
Now as I look forward to future goals like marriage, career and calling, I realise how futile my predictions and plans can be. I have no idea what to expect in my current season of growth. And to be honest, that uncertainty scares me. But God is working, and I am growing! He has already brought me through so many milestones.
So if you ever forget where you’re heading, just look back to where you came from and see how far God has already brought you. He is working, and you are growing!