I know quite a bit about slow blooming. Prior to working with Lake Institute, I was a youth minister for 14 years. I don’t know if there are any statistics on this, but I’m fairly certain that in some varieties of teenagers it can take up to 10 years before any blossoms appear!
Seeds are fickle – whether the plant or human variety. They all require nourishment, but figuring out the exact formula isn’t easy. One can spend hours and days on her knees digging holes and planting bags of bulbs, only to find a few blossoms the following spring (don’t ask me how I know!). One can also spend hours and days and years nourishing young people socially, emotionally and spiritually, only to find them drifting away at the start of their senior year.
So, why do we keep planting seeds knowing the risk we’re taking? Why do we invest in lives and flowerbeds knowing it may be years before we reap what’s been sown?
I know why I do it. I do it because of the lasting impact those seeds will have. We live in a time when scarcity is spoken of more often than abundance. People are scared and worried and holding on tight to what they have for fear that nothing else will appear. By planting seeds today, we help bring about abundance for people tomorrow.
The abundance I experience in my life is the result of grace, time, and hard work – probably in that order! Much of what I’ve experienced and have is the result of seeds that people planted 10, 20, even 100 years ago. My life is full of abundance because people planted seeds of life, hope, education, faith, joy and love. I can identify some of the gardeners, but not all. In the same way, one day someone will slowly breathe in the beautiful scent of those lilac bushes not knowing who planted them, but grateful all the same.
Henri Nouwen explains it this way: “Even a seemingly small act of generosity can grow into something far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine – the creation of a community of love in this world, and beyond this world, because wherever love grows, it is stronger than death. So when we give ourselves to planting and nurturing love here on earth, our efforts will reach out beyond on own chronological existence.”