Way back in the summer last year I decided to try and grow an avocado from the pit. I love avocados, but they are expensive, so the idea that one day I may be able to harvest my own, even years down the line, seemed too good not to try. I came across a YouTube video with instructions about how to do so. In my usual impatient way I scanned through the video and proceeded to poke cocktail sticks into the avocado pit and suspend it in a glass of water.
It sat on our kitchen counter for many weeks. I topped up the water now and then. Nothing happened. Most members of the family suggested I throw it out. I resisted. I had faith this would work. After a few more weeks, the seed started to split. A shoot started to grow out of the side and upwards into the air. This puzzled me.
I was sure in the video the root had grown down first before any shoot appeared at the top. It took me another little while before I watched the instruction video back again. It didn’t take me long to realise my mistake. The seed was upside down. The root grew upwards instead of into the water. My rush and impatience to get on with growing the avocado plant, actually slowed and hindered the plant growing as it should.
Of course I felt pretty stupid about making this straightforward mistake. Yet God used this little episode at the time to speak to me about the way we, the way I, search for the sustenance we/I need just like my little avocado root. His living water is right there yet often we’re reaching into the air away from the water, to other things. Things which, while they look like they can sustain us, will not help us grow or flourish in the long run. We’re not able to put our roots into them because they are temporary. ‘Striving after the wind’ as the writer in Ecclesiastes puts it (Ecc. 1:14). God himself call us to trust him, to let him turn our lives around. He grafts us into Jesus, the vine. Refreshing is there in Him and in the power of His Spirit and only there can we grow and be fruitful (John 15:4,5).
With little hope for my plant I turned it the right way up, forcing the shoot into the water. At the same time I started another seed off in another glass the right way up, following instructions more diligently this time. After just a few weeks the second one sprouted its root downwards into the water, and soon after a green shoot grew up and up at the top – just as it should.
The first avocado plant took a little longer, but more roots began to grow down into the water and a green shoot did eventually appear. It seemed as if it was lagging a little behind the second. I was just happy it had survived its bad beginning.
Back in October I potted the two plants out of the water and into soil. They live on our one decent windowsill in our upstairs bathroom. The one with the most light. I check them every day, water them when needed, and hope they survive the winter chill which touches them even inside the house. An interesting thing is happening. My first plant is overtaking the second. It’s almost as if it has made up the weeks it lost at the start.
Here I find God’s grace. Sometimes God grows things from what looks like disaster.
I’ve just finished reading a book called, ‘Humble Roots’, by Hannah Anderson, recommended to me by my friend Debi. I’m grateful she did. Anderson uses many illustrations from the plant world as well as a good bit of theology to explain how cultivating humility brings peace in our lives. It’s a small book steeped in truth and not all comfortable truth. I found it deeply challenging, recognizing some of my own pride that I thought of as humility, and it encouraged me once again to submit to God’s ways rather than my own. It’s worth a read.
One chapter reminded me of my avocado story. Anderson tells a story of planting some heirloom beans. Unlike my first attempt with the avocado pit, her and her husband did everything as they should yet the beans failed to produce a harvest. A little while later her young son got hold of the beans while playing, planted them in a dirt pile and they grew there by themselves and produced an abundance of beans!
My avocado seeds grew in spite of my efforts I feel. The beans in Hannah Anderson’s case grew the second time without her efforts. She says,
‘The fact that success comes without our efforts is testimony, yet again, to God’s surpassing power and goodness. God delights to use small, out-of-the-way, unexpected means to showcase His glory precisely because it is small, out-of-the-way, unexpected means that appear to be least possible of success…He delights to do ‘far more abundantly than all we ask or think’ simply to show that He can…
If we limit ourselves to working only when the signs are promising, if we only plant when everything is perfect, we limit out ability to see God at His best. When we limit ourselves to working when the time is right, we reveal we are still clinging to the notion that success is dependent on our choices and our ability to control outcomes. We are still relying on our ability to make all the right decisions. We are still counting on our calculations and plans to foresee all possible eventualities.
But what if God can grow Mrs Clovis Richards’ beans in a pile of unattended dirt? What if God can bring about good things without us? What if grace is true?’ Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson, p. 168
At many times over the last six months I’ve been tempted to just give up on so many things. Just like my family suggesting I give up on the avocado seed at the start, a voice sometimes creeps into my head, mocking my efforts, asking me what the point is of carrying on.
God’s grace is the point. He has given so much. I carry on with what God has given me right here and right now, knowing He is capable of growing beautiful things for His glory out of the smallness, even out of apparent failure.