There’s a term in horticulture called, “root bound.” In short, it’s “the nature of plants whose roots are ‘bound’ by some kind of barrier” (Roades). The plant can wilt quickly and/or have stunted growth. Thinking of this metaphor, I started wondering if people, like plants, can become root bound.
Yesterday, I caught myself wondering if I had outgrown my surroundings. I have lived in my hometown for 38 years. I have explored almost every nearby county, and I have been employed by at least two dozen companies. For years, I’ve been plagued with the desire to move. Like a plant in its container, I’ve been reaching for something more, but my roots always bring me back. This is where I’m secure. This is where my family is. This is where I grew up. Some days, I feel like I am wilting, or I worry that my growth is being stunted. In light of that, I can’t help but wonder if being transplanted elsewhere will help me to grow even more.
Plants that have outgrown their container need to be replanted into either a bigger planter, or into the ground. However, the transplant process is extremely delicate. There are many factors to consider. If transplanted too early, fragile flowers can go into shock and die. To deter this, many plants are brought outside for a few hours at a time until they get used to the new environment. This process is called, “hardening.”
For years, God has been at work in my life. Possibly, he has been “hardening” me for a life as a transplant. Foreseeing my need for growth, the tender Gardener has been cultivating my leaves and bringing me out for little spurts until the timing would be right. In the meantime, I grow and I wait.
Regardless of my little musings, God knows exactly what He is doing and when. In a way, we are all like tender plants. He knows when we need to be sheltered. He knows when it’s time for us to bloom. We all serve a specific purpose. Some of us are prickly; some of us are sweet; some of us are big and showy, while others radiate a quiet wonder; some of us provide food; others provide shelter. Plants don’t worry about what they will do, or how they will do it. They just trust in their Gardner to make sure that their life is used for its ultimate purpose. Unlike foliage, we have the ultimate privilege available to us– an intimate relationship with the Creator, Himself.
One of my favorite images in the Bible comes from John 15:
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (NIV).
We are all in the process of being remade. Truth be told, there will be times when we have outgrown our surroundings. But no matter how we may feel, the Gardner will not let us become root bound. He knows the exact moment when we will be ready to move on; we just have to trust His timing. In the meantime, we continue to draw nearer to Him, producing fruit for the people that find shelter in our shade.